The deck was stacked against the Canadian labour market this January. A jump in post-holiday COVD-19 cases, new restrictions on activity, and a shift to online schooling in some regions all helped send employment tumbling.

Today’s job numbers once again highlighted the balancing act between the most pandemic-exposed sectors and the rest of the economy, a similar story to the end of last year. Retail trade joined the list of areas impacted by public health restrictions, tipping the scales further in January. Conditions in less affected industries were mixed, but overall edged upward.

Will January be the worst it gets during this second wave? A key difference with this report and the extreme losses seen last spring was that total hours worked actually ticked up, as the entire net-employment decline came from a drop in part-time work. Another contrast is that losses weren’t spread evenly across the country, instead occuring in just Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland.  

Developments since mid-January have also been more upbeat, in particular with new COVID-19 cases falling. Meanwhile, after dipping to start the year, job postings on Indeed are trending back towards pre-crisis levels, suggesting a better outlook for job seekers. Throughout this crisis, the state of the job market has followed the path of the pandemic – all eyes are now on the vaccine rollout.