• June 1, 2020

QP Briefing. 1 in 3 Ontario Workers Affected by Shutdown, FAO

By Jessica Smith Cross, QP Briefing

A new report from Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office finds nearly one in three Ontario workers has lost their job or most of their working hours since the pandemic began.

The FAO analyzed Statistic Canada’s April Labour Force Survey and found employment declined by 689,200 jobs, bringing the unemployment rate to 11.3 percent. That’s the highest since June 1993 and doesn’t include the many laid-off workers who aren’t looking for work amid limited job opportunities.

The story doesn’t end with lost jobs, however. Another 934,000 Ontarians kept their jobs but worked no hours, and 144,000 others worked less than half of the hours they usually did in pre-pandemic times, the FAO reported.

The report found April’s job losses spanned all major sectors of the economy, but were concentrated among lower-wage workers. Those precariously employed were most affected with temporary employees, younger workers, and those with lower levels of education bearing the brunt.

The official opposition noted that the report also shows more women than men have lost their jobs, even though the gender inequality has lessened since the initial pandemic-related job losses in March.

“Once again we see that women are bearing the brunt of the economic pain,” said MPP Catherine Fife, NDP critic for Economic Growth and Job Creation. “This continues to be a she-cession, with women continuing to lose their jobs at an even faster pace, with over 575,000 women being laid off in Ontario since February.”

The term “she-cession” was coined by economist Armine Yalnizyan, an Atkinson fellow on the future of work, who told QP Briefing last month that women will be left out of the recovery without access to safe child care — and the longer society goes without child care, the more likely the gains women have won in the workplace in recent years will be rolled back.

Fife also called on the Ford government to offer help to small businesses, pointing out that Ontario has relied on federal aid.

“Ford needs to step up to offer real financial supports to workers and small businesses in Ontario, especially women, so they can get through the worst of this crisis and begin to rebuild our economy once the pandemic is over,” said Fife.

Liberal finance critic Mitzie Hunter had a similar message.

“It is striking that the people who are being impacted the most will face the steepest challenges to recovery,” she said in a statement. “Businesses that rely on social gatherings and travel, including food service and accommodation, will likely be the last sectors of the economy to safely and fully re-open.”

“These sectors also employ a particularly vulnerable part of the workforce: part-time employees, low-wage earners, which are often women and racialized persons,” she continued. “Ontario’s economic response will need to be tailored to support all aspects of the economy, especially small businesses that create the majority of local jobs. We must now provide them the tools to weather this storm, while building consumer confidence, on this road to recovery.”

However, the report also forecasts some daylight peeking through the economic gloom.

“The labour market is expected to improve gradually in the coming months,” the report says. “The federal Canada Employment Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program and the reopening of some Ontario retail stores beginning in early May will likely provide a boost to employment.

“However, the employment recovery could be uneven if the reopening of the economy takes longer than expected because of on-going public health concerns.”

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