Historic job losses represent enormous challenge

April 9, 2020

Canada’s unions say further efforts are required to support unemployed workers and to preserve existing jobs as the number of Canadians who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic continues to rise.

According to Statistics Canada, employment fell by one million in March and the ranks of the unemployed grew by 413,000. Canada’s unemployment rate rose by 2.2 percentage points to 7.8 per cent, the largest single-month increase since comparable data became available in 1976.

“Today’s alarming unemployment numbers underscore the devastation this pandemic is having on workers and has made clear the enormous task in front of us,” said Hassan Yussuff, CLC’s president.

“Right now, working people need secure and adequate incomes, rent and mortgage relief, and a break on bank and credit card fees. The federal government’s commitment to increasing the Canada Child Benefit and expanding the GST/HST credit was welcomed news. As are the emergency benefits package and wage subsidy programs which are integral to preserving jobs and getting money to many of these workers. However, the scope of coverage simply needs to be broadened.”

The latest numbers highlight the impact of current efforts to curb coronavirus infections on communities across the country. Losses were concentrated in accommodation and food services where employment fell by 294,000 jobs, or 23.9 per cent compared to the previous month. Women and vulnerable workers have been hit hardest in this sudden downturn.

All provinces saw increases in the unemployment rate, with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island. The largest increases were in Quebec (+3.6 percentage points to 8.1 per cent), British Columbia (+2.2 percentage points to 7.2 per cent) and Ontario (+2.1 percentage points to 7.6 per cent).

April employment numbers are expected to show even higher numbers of job losses. The critical need for social distancing will continue to impact the country’s economic well-being. Beyond that, it will take cross-sector efforts to ensure that a full, robust recovery benefits everyone.

“Economic recovery will take all orders of government, business and industry, workers and labour being at the same table building durable, long-term solutions. The CLC will continue to demand action to support the livelihoods of all workers in Canada, now and in the recovery to come,” said Yussuff.

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