Has job growth held up in recent weeks as COVID-19 continues to gain traction in the country?
The most recent Statistics Canada employment data fell in early January. In summary, the unemployment rate rose slightly in December 2020 to stand at 8.6%, compared to 8.5% in November 2020. This increase could be explained by the net loss of 63,000 jobs (mainly of part-time positions) following a tightening of public health rules. Specifically, 1.1 million Canadian workers have lost their jobs or experienced a reduction in their working hours.
In Quebec, however, unemployment fell by 0.5 percentage point to 6.7% in December 2020, compared with 7.2% in the previous month, even though many businesses, such as bars and gyms remained closed.
There are, however, strong regional differences across the country. The unemployment rate jumped in Nova Scotia, going from 6.7% in November to 8.6% in December. That said, the three provinces with the highest unemployment rates are Newfoundland and Labrador (12.2%), Alberta (11.0%) and Prince Edward Island (10, 1%).
Nothing is going well in restaurants, aviation and retail
No surprise here: in December, employment fell further in industries directly affected by the new sanitation measures. For example, accommodation and food services alone lost 56,700 jobs.
The aviation sector also continued to falter at the end of 2020. WestJet has announced a 30% reduction in its flights and staff. Of the roughly 1,000 employees affected, some will experience reduced hours, while others will have to take unpaid leave or be made redundant.
The retail industry has also ripped off. One example among others: the Bizou company, sheltered from its creditors since October, has announced that it will have to close 24 of its 85 stores located in Quebec, the Maritimes and Ontario.
Never mind, the pandemic context is also creating its share of jobs. The best example is that of tracers, that is, those people who are responsible for tracing the contacts of people who have contracted COVID-19. While in Montreal, 30 to 40 tracers assigned to epidemiological surveys are hired per week, the Laval region currently has 160 people while continuing to recruit.
Meanwhile, on the Alberta side, at least 1,250 tracers are already in operation, but the Western Province hopes to have some 2,000 tracers by February.