Employment drops as Canada introduces stricter health measures

Mohanad Moetaz
Published: May 11, 2021

Canada saw its unemployment rate increase more than 8 per cent in April 2021, as employment fell by 207,000.

Statistics Canada measured Canada’s labour market conditions during the week of April 11 to 17. Canadian provinces were introducing stricter health measures because of the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases across the country. A stay-at-home order was introduced in Ontario. Quebec had 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. curfews in place. British Columbia also had closed restaurants and bars for indoor dining.

In addition, the number of people who were working less than half of their usual hours increased by 288,000 in April, and the number of people working from home increased by 100,000 up to about 5 million.

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Employment down in industries with high numbers of immigrants

Immigrants have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in part due to the fact that many are employed in affected industries.

The majority of the employment decline came from three private sector industries: retail trade; accommodation and food services; and information, culture and recreation.

Employment in these three industries is largely affected by health measures. Job numbers tend to rise and fall in line with the tightening and easing of restrictions.

The accommodation and food services industry lost 59,000 jobs in April. Most of these losses came from Ontario and British Columbia. This is because these provinces re-introduced orders that force restaurants and bars to close to indoor dining in late March and early April.

In the information, culture and recreation industry, employment fell by 26,000. Employment recovery is restricted because of the current public health measures, which affect travel, indoor recreation, and also limit the number of people that can gather in public places.

Employment fell by 84,000, in the retail trade industry in April. Strict restrictions were imposed on non-essential stores in Ontario, Alberta and many Quebec regions.

Unemployment rate higher among visible minorities 

The unemployment rate for visible minorities increased half of a percentage point, to almost 10 per cent in April. For white Canadians, the unemployment rate did not change much, and was at nearly 8 per cent.

Among Southeast Asian Canadians, the unemployment rate increased to nearly 14 per cent. Among Filipino Canadians, it increased to more than 6 per cent.

It is worth noting that the proportion of Southeast Asian and Filipino Canadian workers employed in the accommodation and food services sector is higher than the national average.

Recent immigrants saw a rise in employment rate

The employment rate among recent immigrants recovered from losses early in the pandemic. These are immigrants who have been in Canada for five years or less.

Around two thirds of recent immigrants were employed in February, March and April 2021. This rate is up by more than 2 percentage points from the three-month period beginning in December 2019 and ending in February 2020.

Due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions, the number of new immigrants coming into Canada dramatically decreased. The population of these immigrants has been falling faster than their employment. This may explain why the employment rate for this group has risen.

For immigrants who have been in Canada for more than five years, the employment rate dropped to nearly 58 per cent.

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