Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey shows fast economic growth in March, but gains may not last.
Canada’s economy grew even closer to pre-pandemic levels in March.
Statistics Canada examined labour market conditions during the week of March 14 to 20, just as the third wave of the coronavirus was starting. Public health measures were less restrictive in several provinces. Stay-at-home orders had been lifted for all regions of Ontario, although personal care services, recreation and fitness facilities, and in-person dining remained closed in some areas, such as Toronto.
The number of people employed in March was just 1.5 per cent lower than February 2020, the month before the pandemic hit, although unemployment was up about 32 per cent.
Employment gains were seen across the provinces, with the largest increases in Ontario, Alberta, B.C., and Quebec. Many jobs were recovered in hard-hit industries like retail trade, and accommodation and food services. Employment in information, culture and recreation services increased for the first time since September.
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Employment up in industries with high amounts of immigrants
Immigrants have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, in part because many are employed in industries that have felt the brunt of coronavirus-related closures. However, some of these hard-hit industries started to see a comeback.
The retail trade industry, for example, employs some 450,000 immigrants, according to 2016 census data. The losses this industry felt in January were fully recouped in March.
There were also 21,000 more people working in accommodation and food services, an increase of more than 2 per cent. This industry employs about 346,000 immigrants.
Construction, which employs more than 238,000 immigrants, contributed the most to gains in the goods-producing sector.
There was also much growth in immigrant-rich industries like health care and social assistance, which employs about 523,000 immigrants, and educational services where more than 264,000 immigrants work.
These gains all contributed to the national employment increase last month.
Employment rate for very recent immigrants remains stable
Canada’s travel restrictions have slashed the number of newcomers to Canada to a record low. In 2020, just 184,000 newcomers became permanent residents.
Statistics Canada considers “very recent immigrants” to be people who have been in Canada for less than five years. Since the numbers of very recent immigrants are lower, and the rate at which their population has fallen is faster than their employment, the employment rate has remained steady for this group. In the three months ending in March, the employment rate for very recent immigrants was about 65 per cent, little changed from the three months ending in February 2020.
Canada could lose employment gains in April
As Canada enters the middle of the third wave this month, many provinces have implemented public health measures affecting employment. In Ontario, for example, non-essential businesses have been forced to close for the next month. Restrictions have also tightened in Quebec, B.C., and Alberta.
The effects of coronavirus-related closures will likely be reflected in the Labour Force Survey for April, which is expected to be published on May 7.