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Coronavirus, State of the Labour Market

October Labour Force Survey: Second Wave Drags, but Doesn’t Halt Recovery

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Pandemic-exposed sectors take a step back.

Canadian employment eased off the gas, but didn’t reverse in October. The labour market is now more resilient to the pandemic than it was during the spring, but the health crisis continues to prevent things from getting back to normal. Encouragingly though, the modest employment increase wasn’t papering over a drop-off in total hours worked, which grew slightly quicker than jobs last month.

With the recovery in overall employment decelerating, job growth across industries was a mixed bag. Employment fell back in accommodation and food services, as well as culture and recreation, the two industries most vulnerable to an upswing in the pandemic. The decline in accommodation and food service jobs could have potentially been greater, but losses were primarily concentrated in Quebec.

In the meantime, other areas of the economy fared better, led by professional services, as well as wholesale and retail trade. This is broadly consistent with real-time indicators like Indeed job postings, which showed that while sectors like food service and sports were lagging in October, most others continued their rebound towards last year’s trend. 

There continues to be a dark cloud hanging over the job market. Despite its progress, employment remains in a deep hole compared to where it was last year, and it won’t be back to normal as long as pandemic-exposed sectors are struggling. We’ll have to wait until next year to see if the remaining gap can be closed.