February 10, 2021

January unemployment in Canada reached highest level since August, 2020

Employment losses were driven by part-time work, especially among youth.

Tighter coronavirus restrictions across Canada drove employment down in January, according to the new Labour Force Survey.

Statistics Canada examined the Canadian labour force during the week of January 10 to 16. Coronavirus numbers had just started coming down from an all-time high. Ontario had closed non-essential retail businesses. Quebec had also closed non-essential retail, and implemented a curfew on January 14, which affected the operating hours of some businesses. Alberta and Manitoba closed in-person dining, recreation facilities, personal care services, and had restrictions on retail businesses.

Some restrictions had eased in the Atlantic provinces. Prince Edward Island reopened in-person dining as well as recreational and cultural facilities. Restrictions on in-person dining were eased in Halifax, Nova Scotia just days before the Labour Force Survey took place.

Employment losses were entirely in part-time work, and were concentrated in the Quebec and Ontario retail trade sectors. Employment fell by 213,000 jobs in January, following a drop of 53,000 in December.

There were also more Canadians working from home in January than there were in April, following Canada’s first lockdown.

The unemployment rate was at 9.4 per cent, the highest since August when unemployment was at 10.2 per cent.

Job losses were highly concentrated in Ontario and Quebec. Employment also fell in Newfoundland and Labrador, but rose in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Employment held steady in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

Industries that were affected by public health measures were the most affected. The accommodation and food services sector took the biggest hit. Retail as well as information, culture and recreation also saw losses.

Employment rose in construction driven by gains in Quebec and Alberta.

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