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2020-04-29T16:11:21-04:00 April 29, 2020|COVID-19|

Sobering Numbers on the Impact of COVID-19 from Statistics Canada

I wanted to mention a few surveys from Statistics Canada that came out over the past few days:

  1. Labour Force Survey, March 2020
  2. Canadian Perspectives Survey Series 1: COVID-19 and working from home, 2020
  3. Canadian Survey on Business Conditions: Impact of COVID-19 on businesses in Canada, March 2020

Much of the information in these reports merely confirms what we all know – COVID-19 has had a decimating impact on employees, employers and the economy.  The question was the extent or magnitude of the impact.

Labour Force Survey, March 2020

The Labour Force Survey, March 2020 confirms that employment fell by more than one million in March (1,011,000 or 5.3%). The employment rate (the proportion of people aged 15 and older who were employed) fell 3.3 percentage points to 58.5%, the lowest rate since April 1997.  A further 2.1 million Canadians remained employed but worked either zero hours or less than half their usual hours.

The unemployment rate increased by 2.2 percentage points to 7.8%, the largest one-month increase since similar data became available in 1976 with unemployment increasing by 413,000 (36.4%), largely due to temporary layoffs.

Part-time work among people aged 15 to 24 has been the hardest hit, where the employment rate is 49.1%, the lowest on record using comparable data beginning in 1976.

The survey also provides:

In general, workers in less secure, lower-quality jobs, were more likely to see employment losses in March. The number of employees in temporary jobs decreased by 14.5% (-274,900) compared with a decline of 5.3% (-749,500) among employees with permanent jobs (unadjusted for seasonality). Decreases were observed across all types of temporary work, led by those in casual employment (-23.5% or -136,000). There were 5.0% fewer temporary workers with a term or contract position.

The numbers are somewhat deceptive in that there is a significant group of people who are not unemployed, but who are not working. 

Working from Home

In 2015/2016, according to the 2016 Census only 7.5% of workers usually worked from home.  Approximately 34.3% of those working from home were self-employed. 

Clearly, some sectors simply do not allow for working-from-home (e.g. accommodation and food services, retail trade, and transportation and warehousing). 

The March 2020 working from home survey confirms what we all suspected – a lot more people are working from home, and by “a lot” the survey finds that approximately 4.7 million Canadians who did not usually work from home did so during the week of March 22 to 28. 

Impact of COVID-19 on Business, March 2020

Nearly one-third (32.3%) of businesses that responded to the survey reported that their revenues from the first quarter of 2020 were down by 40% or more from the same quarter a year earlier. Another 21.2% of businesses reported their revenues had decreased by between 20% and 40% over the same period.

Certain sectors were more adversely impacted by COVID-19 including accommodation, food services, arts, entertainment and recreation, and retail.

In Ontario, 56.3% of businesses saw revenue decline of at least 20%. 

Businesses seem to be trying to find ways of carrying on through the restrictions.  According to the survey:

Over two-fifths (45.4%) of businesses reported having added new ways to interact with or sell to customers, while nearly two-fifths (38.1%) of businesses reported having increased the use of virtual connections internally.

In response to requests by the government, 2.8% of businesses indicated they had started manufacturing new products to help cope with the crisis. Businesses in the manufacturing (10.5%) sector were most likely to shift production. Over two-fifths (42.9%) of businesses shifting production had started manufacturing hand sanitizer or had begun manufacturing masks and eye protection.

Nearly two-thirds (62.3%) of businesses reported that they could re-open or return to normal operations less than one month after social distancing measures are removed.

Statistics are helpful, but they don’t speak to the human toll that COVID-19 is having on our society.  These are truly sobering numbers.