Canada sees record labour productivity in 2020

Ontario has largest drop in hours worked, at 348 million

Canada sees record labour productivity in 2020

Despite a difficult year that saw businesses closing their doors and working hours reduced, business productivity in Canada rose sharply by 8.1 per cent, according to Ottawa.

That’s the largest gain since the annual data series began in 1997, and included every province, as well as Yukon and Nunavut, but did not include the Northwest Territories.

Increases in productivity came as the hours worked fell faster than gross domestic product (GDP).

Variations by region

Nunavut saw the most dramatic change in productivity (28.4 per cent), followed closely by Yukon (24 per cent). Further behind were Newfoundland and Labrador (13.2 per cent) and British Columbia (10.7 per cent).

Lower down on the chart are Nova Scotia, with an annual change of 9.8 per cent, Ontario at 8.3 per cent, Prince Edward Island at 7.2 per cent, Quebec at 7.1 per cent, Saskatchewan at 6.1 per cent, Alberta at 5.8 per cent, New Brunswick at 4.6 per cent, Manitoba at 3.7 per cent.

The Northwest Territories was the one region that saw a decline of -8.7 per cent in labour productivity.

GDP declines

In 2020, both real GDP of businesses and hours worked fell in every province. However, hours worked posted a much larger decline than GDP of businesses, and, as a result, productivity in every province recorded “exceptional growth,” says the government

At the national level, hours worked in the business sector posted a record drop of 13.5 per cent. For most of the provinces, the decreases in both real GDP of businesses and hours worked were unprecedented.

Meanwhile, hours worked fell in all three territories in 2020, while only the Northwest Territories (-16 per cent) posted a decline in GDP.

Canada is well poised to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic by relying more on new immigrants to help alleviate the labour shortage, according to the immigration minister.

Losses in hours worked

Losses in hours worked were uneven across the country's provinces and territories. In Ontario, when only individuals in the labour force or on paid leave are taken into account, roughly 348.2 million hours were lost in 2020, making it the largest loss across Canada.

This was followed at a distance by Quebec, with 183,055, and then British Columbia, at 115,382, and Alberta, at 107,434. The other provinces came in considerably lower, with Manitoba at 23,057, Saskatchewan at 21,350, Nova Scotia at 17,692, New Brunswick at 12,418, Newfoundland and Labrador at 7,140, Yukon at 18, Nunavut at 14 and Northwest Territories at 11.

However, longer working hours have been a reality for many employees who work from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey by Robert Half.

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