Workers get set to pour cement from a truck at the GO train station in Oakville, Ont., Tuesday, Jan.28, 2020. Statistics Canada is set today to report how many workers lost their jobs in April or had their hours slashed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Richard Buchan

COVID-19 wage subsidy program extended as pandemic pushes millions out of workforce

Economists on average had expected the loss of four million jobs and an unemployment rate of 18 per cent

With nearly two million jobs lost in April due to COVID-19, the federal government has announced it will be extending the wage subsidy program beyond June.

The loss of 1,993,800 jobs, according to the report released Friday (May 8) follows one million jobs lost in March. Meanwhile, millions more have seen their hours or incomes slashed due to the pandemic slowing and shuttering businesses.

Ottawa’s emergency wage subsidy, which officially launched last week, provides eligible businesses with 75 per cent of wages in order to keep more employees on their pay roll, or bring them back if they were temporarily laid off.

“We created that subsidy to protect jobs as much as possible. Since the launch of the program, employers have already applied for the wage subsidy for some two million workers,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

ALSO READ: Trudeau announces 75% wage subsidy for small businesses amid COVID-19

In B.C., where 264,100 jobs were lost in April, Finance Minister Carole James is expected to comment on the latest report later today.

Economists on average had expected the loss of four million jobs and an unemployment rate of 18 per cent, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

The unemployment rate would have been 17.8 per cent had the agency’s labour force survey counted among the unemployed the 1.1 million who stopped looking for work — likely because the COVID-19 economic shutdown has limited job opportunities.

In all, more than one-third of the labour force didn’t work or had reduced hours in April, an “underutilization rate” that was more than three times higher than in February before the pandemic struck.

“Canadians should be confident that we will do whatever we can to ensure that their jobs are safe as we continue to fight the global COVID-19 outbreak,” a trio of federal cabinet ministers said in a joint statement this morning in response to the jobs report.

ALSO READ: B.C. opens applications for COVID-19 emergency worker benefit

“As provinces and territories begin to lift restrictions and our government continues to take steps towards economic recovery, we will be there for Canadians.”

Vulnerable workers who tend to have part-time or temporary work, or in low-paying jobs have been particularly impacted with heavy job losses. Women have seen larger job losses overall, but the number of men out of work in April closed the gender gap in cumulative unemployment losses.

Nearly all of the job losses for men since February were in full-time work, compared to 69.9 per cent for women.

“This, combined with the different industries in which men and women have lost their jobs — for example, more job losses among men have been in construction, and fewer have been in retail trade — signals that the challenges associated with recovering from the COVID-19 economic shutdown may be different for women and men,” the labour force survey says.

In March, health restrictions forced the closure of non-essential businesses, leading to layoffs and cuts in work hours as companies tried to manage costs without enough or any revenue coming in.

ALSO READ: Trudeau unveils rental assistance for small businesses, loosens loan qualifications

Smaller companies — defined as those with less than 20 employees — have shed 30.8 per cent of their workers, medium-sized firms have let 25.1 per cent of workers go, and large companies have seen employment decline by 12.6 per cent.

Hard-hit sectors at the outset include retail, hotels, restaurants and bars, which continued to see losses in April. The losses in the service sector continued in April, down 1.4 million or 9.6 per cent, Statistics Canada says.

Proportionally, the losses were greater in goods-producing sectors like construction and manufacturing, which combined lost 621,000 jobs for a drop of 15.8 per cent after being virtually unchanged in March.

Job losses in April were spread across all provinces, with Quebec particularly hard-hit. The unemployment rate in the province climbed to 17 per cent, the highest rate among all provinces and the highest rate for Quebec itself in over more than four decades of comparable data.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusEmploymentJobless rate

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RDCK recycling depots to join RecycleBC program

Some depots open, others close, and different materials will be accepted

Morning start: This famous singer is from the West Kootenays

Here is your Kootenays’ morning start for Tuesday, May 26

West Kootenay SAR crews rescue injured mountain biker near Rossland

Crews were called in to help after the biker seriously injured himself at around noon Saturday

Suspected fentanyl and cocaine seized during RCMP search in Castlegar

Two men were taken into police custody during the search warrant

Castlegar and Creston skate parks opening May 27

The RDCK is asking skateboarders to take physical distancing protocols to combat spread of COVID-19

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

B.C. mom’s drug-pricing petition on behalf of son garners thousands of signatures

Petition geared to gaining access to new medicines drew support of Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl

‘Paralyzed by fear’: B.C. woman details anxiety, grief at Italian relief hospital

Sheila Vicic spent two months in Italy as the country grappled with COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry given new name in B.C. First Nation ceremony: ‘one who is calm among us’

The provincial health officer was honoured in a May 22 ceremony at elementary school in Hazelton

CAMH survey looks at binge-drinking, financial anxiety during COVID

Alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism for those whose careers may have been sidelined due to the pandemic

Half of Canadians say governments are hiding something about COVID-19: poll

More than a third of people believe the virus was created in a lab

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Most Read