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May Labour Force Survey Preview: Waiting For Reopening


The job market entered a limbo period in May.

Canada’s labour market recovery went in reverse in April, after strong gains the prior two months. Volatility has been off the charts so far in 2021, with employment in each of the first four months showing either gains or losses of at least 200,000. 

The May numbers could prove calmer. Canada-wide stringency against COVID-19 didn’t change quite as much between mid-April and May as it did over the month prior. Nonetheless, business closures could still bring additional job losses.

At the same time, overall employer hiring appetite has remained solid. Job postings on Indeed Canada have been steady at elevated levels in recent weeks, up 18% from their pre-pandemic level, as of May 21.

The real test for the labour market will start in June, as provinces start to more fully reopen. Canadians’ cooped-up demand for various restricted activities could lead to some quick gains in industries that have been quite weak over the past year. Overall, the outlook is positive amid the vaccine rollout’s rapid strides in recent weeks. Nonetheless, questions remain over what type of pandemic-era structural changes will persist, and how the economy will adjust as emergency government support programs are wound down as September approaches.