March Labour Force Survey: Job Numbers Showcase Start of COVID-19 Upheaval
Record monthly job losses in almost all provinces
Today’s Labour Force Survey report was both the most anticipated, and ultimately dramatic, in its modern history. Jobs dropped by record levels, both nationally and among eight of the 10 provinces, excluding P.E.I and Newfoundland and Labrador. The overall share of the population with a job fell 3.3 percentage points, as unemployment surged, and a wave of Canadians left the labour force not looking for work. For some groups, the hit was even worse: the employment rate among youth plummeted a whopping 8.9 percentage points.
Signs of the upheaval in the labour market were evident throughout the report. Not only were employment levels rocked, but the number of workers missing time from work also soared. Among this group were those who lost their jobs midway through the week – still counted as employees since they worked at some point during the reference period – as well as those still employed at businesses temporarily closed or operating at reduced hours.
After a month of social distancing, a colossal drop in Canadian employment comes as no surprise, but its steepness is still shocking. Today’s numbers are just a first snapshot of the deep-freeze that’s hit the Canadian labour market. The data since mid-March has only deteriorated: employment insurance and emergency benefit claims have continued to climb, while job postings on Indeed have plunged compared to last year’s trend. Conditions will eventually bottom out, but a rebound is going to require the confidence of Canadian society that the public health crisis is truly abating.
Brendon Bernard is an Economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, focusing on the Canadian labour market. His research interests include analyzing how detailed trends in the job market fit in with broader developments in the Canadian economy. Brendon was previously an economist with Department of Finance Canada, where he focused on analyzing Canadian financial sector policy and the U.S. economy. He holds a Master’s in Economics from the Vancouver School of Economics at University of British Columbia, as well as a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from Queen’s University.