Employment falls by 207,000 in April

Public health restrictions impact retail, hospitality, tourism sectors

Employment falls by 207,000 in April

After gaining 300,000 jobs in March, Canada saw employment fall by 207,000 or 1.1 per cent in April.

Virtually all of the employment decline was among private sector employees and most of the decline occurred in Ontario and British Columbia, in industries most affected by the restrictions, according to Statistics Canada.

The overall unemployment rate rose 0.6 percentage points to 8.1 per cent.

Employment declined in both full-time (down 129,000) and part-time (down 78,000) work. The number of employed people working less than half their usual hours increased by 288,000 (27.2 per cent).

Although March projected an optimistic increase in jobs, it’s not a surprise that there was a drop last month after stricter lockdowns were imposed in many provinces, says Jim Mitchell, president of LHH.

“This can be attributed to the quick openings and even quicker closures of businesses and heavily impacted hospitality and retail sectors which continue to be the most obstructed by public health measures. The rollout of vaccines in the upcoming summer months should translate into a more consistent recovery and a faster hiring pace.”

Total hours worked fell 2.7 per cent in April, driven by declines in educational services, accommodation and food services, as well as retail.

And the number of Canadians working from home grew by 100,000 to 5.1 million, says Ottawa.

In April, employment fell in several industries directly impacted by public health restrictions, such as retail (down 84,000), accommodation and food services (down 59,000), and information, culture and recreation (down 26,000).

Industries where many activities can be performed remotely were little affected by the new restrictions, and employment actually increased in public administration (up 15,000), professional, scientific and technical services (up 15,000), and finance, insurance and real estate (up 15,000).

April’s Labour Force Survey shows the impact that tightening COVID-19 measures are having on employment in Canada, says Liam Daly, economist at the Conference Board of Canada.

“The third wave of the pandemic dealt a heavy blow to jobs in Ontario, with schools and stores forced to close. However, with the rollout of vaccines underway, we expect employment to bounce back as we have seen in the past once restrictions are eased. That said, since the survey was conducted, the situation in provinces such as Alberta has deteriorated and this will likely be reflected in next month’s results.”

Long-term unemployment — defined as the number of people unemployed for 27 weeks or more — rose to 486,000 (up 21,000 or 4.6 per cent) in April, “reflecting the continued flow into this category of those who lost jobs in the spring, summer and fall of 2020 and who have remained unemployed since,” says the government

“Among the long-term unemployed, 312,000 had been without work for 52 weeks or more as of April. By way of comparison, in February 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, less than one-third of this number (99,000) had been unemployed for at least a year.”

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