unemployment canada

There's finally some good news about unemployment numbers in Canada

While the economy still reels from months of pandemic closures, it seems that people across Canada are finally (albeit slowly) getting back to work.

Statistics Canada's monthly Labour Force Survey has been pretty darn bleak since the health crisis began, with the national unemployment rate reaching a record high of 13.7 per cent by May of this year (compared to 5.6 per cent in February).

But, there is also some more positive data from last month, which confirms that people are indeed starting to get back to life and work as usual as things reopen nationwide.

May's survey found that a total of 10.6 per cent of jobs that were lost due to COVID-19 have now returned (mostly lower-wage positions in the retail and trade industries), with a 1.8 per cent increase in overall employment month-over-month. Another 8.6 per cent of people resumed more regular working hours after having their workweek cut in half or more earlier this year.

And, another 800,000 people got back to offices and other work settings between April and May after having to work from home amid the pandemic.

employment canada

After a steep drop in employment coast-to-coast so far in 2020, May showed some improvement, finally. Image from StatsCan.

The reason for this seemingly contradictory data — a higher unemployment rate alongside higher employment — is that more people were actively looking for work in May than in April, driving up the proportion of people considered unemployed. This demographic is, StatsCan says, mostly young people and students looking for summer work.

Though a rate this staggering is certainly not a good thing, it can be seen as an indicator that people are more confident that the coronavirus situation is improving, and are now ready to seek work once more.

Given more people are also gradually joining the workforce each month and residents are becoming progressively less worried about future job loss than they were earlier in the year, this feels hopeful.

But, things aren't moving as quickly in some parts of the country as in others, of course, as the numbers are impacted by each region's plan for loosening restrictions.

Quebec accounted for almost 80 per cent of the country's employment gains last month, equating to a 30 per cent recovery of jobs lost in the province since the crisis began.

Ontario, on the other hand, which is entering Stage 2 of reopening later this week (at least, most regions of the province are), still isn't seeing any job growth, with 65,000 fewer people working in May than the month prior.

employment canada

The rate at which people are returning to work in different parts of the country is dependant upon how fast each province is reopening its economy. Image from StatsCan.

But, seeing as this number pales in comparison to the 689,000 jobs that were lost in April, hopefully the summer will mean a bounce back as we have seen starting elsewhere in the country.

The pace at which this happens, though, as well as how things play out in different parts of Canada amid a recession, is unpredictable at this point and is sure to be unequal.

As the report states, "it is expected that jurisdictions across Canada will continue to re-evaluate and adjust restrictions on economic activity. In turn, labour market conditions are likely to evolve at an uncertain pace and in unknown directions."

So here's to forging ahead in the most unprecedented year of uncertainty yet.

Lead photo by

Dominic Bugatto


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