Canada’s economy added almost one million jobs last month, as businesses reopened after COVID-19 shutdowns.
Statistics Canada reported Friday that the economy added 953,000 jobs during June, on top of the 290,000 it gained the previous month. But despite that two-month stretch, there are still 1.8 million fewer jobs in Canada today than there were in February.
The jobless rate fell to 12.3 per cent in June, down from the record high of 13.7 it hit in May.
The job gains were better than the 700,000 jobs that economists polled by Bloomberg were forecasting.
More than half of the new jobs came from Ontario and Quebec, which added 378,000 and 248,000 jobs, respectively. But every province added at least a small number of jobs.
Ontario’s bounce back was largely a result of the province playing catch-up to what happened elsewhere a month earlier, as the province was still largely locked down until the beginning of June, unlike most of the rest of the country, which began to cautiously reopen in May.
Indeed, Statistics Canada said that the country’s biggest city, Toronto, was still mostly locked down during the week it conducted its jobs survey for June, so any surge in Toronto’s job numbers after the city entered Phase 2 of its reopening was excluded from this set of numbers and will likely show up in July’s data.
N.B. almost back to pre-pandemic employment
New Brunswick added 22,000 jobs, meaning the province now has 97 per cent of the jobs it had pre-pandemic, making the province the national leader in the recovery.
The jobs were fairly evenly split between full- and part-time, with 488,000 of the former and 465,000 of the latter.
At the lowest point in April, Statistics Canada says 5.5 million Canadian jobs were negatively impacted by the pandemic, with three million jobs completely gone and another 2.5 million being reduced in terms of hours or wages in some way.
By June, that first number was down by about two million, but the data agency says there are still 3.1 million workers who’ve either lost their jobs or have been otherwise negatively impacted by COVID-19.
Some sectors are recovering faster than others.
Tourism was among the hardest-hit sectors of the economy, and the numbers Friday show that sector is still suffering because of travel restrictions.
Reetu Gupta, CEO of Easton’s Group of Hotels, said that at its lowest point, occupancy at the chain’s almost two dozen hotels across Ontario and Quebec, was as low as three per cent.
“We kept hotels open so we could keep as many jobs as possible,” she told CBC News.
As of June 1, all its hotels reopened, and occupancy is as high as 80 per cent in some locations. Gupta said she’s seeing an uptick in domestic travellers, even as the United States and foreign borders remain closed.
“Touch wood, things are definitely starting to pick up,” she said.
The pandemic disproportionately hit women’s employment, and the numbers suggest they are not recovering as quickly as male workers are.
“Some of it reflects the facts that the industries that are coming back more quickly tend to have more male employees,” Royal Bank’s deputy chief economist Dawn Desjardins said in an interview.
She said that sectors such as retail, tourism, food and accommodation have been among the slowest to rebound. “Those are heavily female-dominated, and we are not seeing the same degree of recovery,” she said.
For women who make $16 an hour or less, employment is still at less than three-quarters of what it was in February. For men in that wage group, employment has bounced back to 84 per cent of its previous level.
And working parents continue to fall behind four months into the pandemic. Nearly one in seven working mothers are still getting less than half the paid work they were before. For working fathers, it’s about one in 12.
“Women are disproportionately carrying the load of unpaid labour,” Desjardins said.
She added that September will be a key month for the recovery, as schools theoretically reopening should take over some of the burden that’s currently being primarily borne by women. “What is child care going to look like in September?” she said. “It could hold back women from participating.”
Even after June’s surge, there are about 10 per cent fewer people with a job in June than had one in February, before the pandemic began. And women are still far more likely to be out of work, calculates Sheila Block, an economist with think tank The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Leah Nord with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce was also cautiously optimistic about the overall numbers, although she said that the hard-hit accommodation and food services industry — which still has just two-thirds of the jobs it had in February — faces an uphill climb to full recovery.
“We still have a long way to go before we return to a fully engaged workforce,” she said. “Any recovery will be underpinned by how effectively we get Canadians back to work.”
Still hard to find work
Calgarian Bonnie Bradley is one Canadian who knows all too well how long the road back from COVID unemployment can be. A manager at a systems integration company, she was furloughed in March and went on employment insurance that same month, before being permanently laid off in June.
“I’m concerned about how long I would be unemployed,” she said. “I’m applying for jobs, but in my mind so are 1,000 other people for every job that’s posted.”
Her reaction to hearing a million jobs being added during the month she was laid off was blunt: “That’s nice, but I’m still unemployed.”
While she’s anxious about her own future, she is more worried for those worse off than her.
“I’m probably in a better position than a lot of people, and that’s very sad to me,” she said.