Media Releases Jun 04, 2021

Today’s job numbers: Light at the end of the tunnel for some, continued economic scarring for many


(OTTAWA) – June 4, 2021 – The Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Senior Director of Workforce Strategies and Inclusive Growth, Leah Nord, issued the following statement regarding today’s Labour Force Survey numbers.

“Today’s job numbers yielded no surprises as the labour market stagnation continues amid lockdowns in key provinces like Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. The next few months could also be unsurprising as a sharp rebound in employment is widely expected as these provincial economies begin to gradually reopen. Turning our attention to getting Canadians back to work will be a welcome reprieve.

But let us be clear, the coming rebound in jobs is not a recovery in jobs. The rate of unemployment as a result of COVID is roughly 70% greater than that of the Great Recession where it took more than 10 years for the labour market to fully recover. It’s more than likely a labour market recovery from the pandemic could take years if not decades. We are nowhere near out of the woods.

What’s different this time is the precipitous permanent closing of businesses. As the COVID-19 crisis continues, more employer–employee bonds break, amplifying the economic and societal damage. With more than 100,000 businesses now permanently closed, the ability to add new jobs is exponentially supressed. What we’re seeing right now is masking a devastating cumulative impact that will play out over the next decade.

The number of long-term unemployed holds steady, with compounding impact on personal or household debt loads while they struggle with likely reduced income potential. Similarly, women who have left the workforce entirely because of domestic responsibilities will be adversely affected when, and indeed if, they choose to return to the workforce. They too will face lower income potential over the course of a lifetime and we are losing a generation of women who are potential board directors and c-suite leaders of the future.

The economic scarring that will determine the nature and length of the gap between rebound and recovery is coming into focus, and its initial shape is K. There has, and will continue to be employment disruption and displacement as the k-shaped crisis continues. We need to get those on the bottom slope into sectors/jobs on the upward slope. In order to do that effectively, Canada needs more labour market assessments to figure out what the looming skills mismatch is and how we can best address it.

The bottom line is: we won’t fix this long-term scarring with policies that made sense pre-COVID. Like so much of our lives and the world around us, our labour market is irreparably disrupted. We need a new plan that creates a much closer alignment between business needs, the labour market, and education and training. We’ll also need to look at the use of financial incentives to provide flexible learning options that meet market demand while allowing workers to re-skill or upskill.

Some of us will be lucky enough to celebrate the rebound in jobs in the coming months but for far too many, the economic scars from COVID-19 will last a lifetime. They deserve a national strategy that recognizes their scars and gives them hope.”

About the Canadian Chamber of Commerce – Because Business Matters

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce helps build the businesses that support our families, our communities and our country. We do this by influencing government policy, by providing essential business services and by connecting businesses to information they can use, to opportunities for growth and to a network of local chambers, businesses, decision-makers and peers from across the country, in every sector of the economy and at all levels of government, as well as internationally. We are unapologetic in our support for business and the vital role it plays in building and sustaining our great nation.

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For more information, please contact:
Phil Taylor
ptaylor@chamber.ca