WINNIPEG – Manitoba lost 6,600 jobs in December, according to Statistics Canada’s latest labor force survey.
This is the second consecutive month of job losses as the province’s economy continues to feel the crisis of the pandemic.
“The direction in which the employment figures suggest the economy is heading is not encouraging,” said Fletcher Barager, associate professor of economics at the University of Manitoba.
Manitoba’s job losses are in line with national trends, with employment falling by 63,000 in Canada in December 2020, the first national decline since April 2020.
With December’s job losses, the province’s unemployment rate stands at 8.2 percent, behind the national unemployment rate (8.4 percent), but still a significant jump from the unemployment rate of 7.4 percent in November.
Code Red restrictions, imposed province-wide in early November, are widely seen as the reason for the economic slowdown, Barager said.
Barager points out that two segments of the labor force were hit hardest by job losses in December, as unemployment rates in Manitoba are highest among workers aged 15 to 24 and among workers over 25 years old.
“We can basically say that of those 6,600 jobs lost between mid-November and mid-December, they were almost exclusively born by women and workers under 25,” Barager said.
Compared to pre-COVID levels, employment in Manitoba is 5.8 percent lower than in February 2020. It is the lowest in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.
Not all industries are affected in the same way.
Some sectors, such as construction and real estate, have seen job gains over the past month.
Accommodation and food services suffered losses, continuing a negative trend that continues to hurt Manitoba’s food service industry.
Between December 2019 and December 2020, the food service industry lost 18,000 jobs.
Missing the recent holiday season – a busy time for the industry – now puts many restaurants on uncertain foundations as the new year approaches, said Shaun Jeffrey, general manager of Manitoba Restaurant and Food Services Association.
“Usually the increase is about 15 to 20 percent in labor dollars that would normally be increased over the holiday season,” Jeffrey said. “This is a significant drop and we continue to see those drops now because we are heading into one of the slowest times of the year for our industry.”
Many retailers are in the same position, said Colin Fast, policy director at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, adding that it might not be as easy as removing restrictions from Code Red before we see a recovery. full economic.
“We have seen significant changes in consumer activity since the start of the pandemic,” Fast said.
“People are getting used to ordering online or having it delivered instead of eating out. I think we need to see how long it takes for these habits to return to normal, or if they are.
There are some glimmers of economic hope on the horizon.
RBC economist Carrie Freestone highlights the role “pent-up demand” will play in Manitoba’s (and Canada’s) economic recovery.
Just as it sounds, “pent-up demand” refers to increased consumer spending once all sectors of the economy have opened up, such as buying concert tickets.
Freestone also predicts that Manitoba will be one of two provinces to move ahead of economic output ahead of COVID before the end of the year.
“Part of this is because the initial onset of the contraction was less severe,” Freestone said, noting that the first lockdown in spring 2020 came into effect later and did not last as long as in other provinces.
“We saw retail sales increase in May and June in Manitoba, while in other provinces many sectors were still stuck,” she said. “The magnitude of the blow was much less serious.”
Freestone adds that a 17 percent increase in infrastructure investment by the Manitoba government will also help the province’s economic recovery.
“Obviously we saw the jobs numbers hit hard in November and December, but we nonetheless expect Manitoba to fare much better,” she said.