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A (Small) Glimmer of Hope in Today’s Job Report?

Today’s job report was pretty bleak. We had some early indications (e.g. the number of EI and CERB claims) of how deep the job losses would be and, unfortunately, we have some reason to believe that it will likely get worse before it gets better.

But are there signs it will get better? Yes.

There are reasons to believe that employment will recover. Across the country – for a determined period of time – employment legislation allows employers to temporarily layoff employees in relatively short order without ending the employment relationship. The idea being that they will be hired back when – and if – business picks up again.

In looking more closely at today’s release, a significant share of unemployed people were without work due to a temporary layoff compared to this time last year (see table 1). The share of temporary layoffs varies by broad occupational grouping, accounting for as much as 54% among those in the Sales and service occupations (compared to 2.4% in March 2019).

This gives us some hope that, like the health crisis itself, the employment crisis will also be temporary.

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When and how much will return?

What we don’t yet know is when the emergency measures will be lifted. This means there are concerns as to the capacity of businesses and families to make ends meet until we’re through to the other side of this.

However, the federal, provincial and territorial governments are doing all the right things by providing rapid and coordinated financial support for businesses and individuals alike.

Helping Canadians transition to new and different opportunities

We must also acknowledge that some businesses will not re-open and some of those individuals temporarily laid off will not be called back. But new opportunities will emerge. It is with that in mind that we will remain focused on improving the relevance and accessibility of labour market information that helps Canadians and Canadian organizations navigate this increasingly complex world of work. These efforts will support the resilience of Canadians and the competitiveness of our economy, now and into the future.

- Steven Tobin

P.S. Having been heavily involved in examining cross-country measures to address the employment challenges of the global financial and economic crisis, one clear debate that emerged was how to find the right balance with respect to employment protection (too little leaves individuals vulnerable; too much means business cannot react in real time). That’s not a debate that is easily solved and I’m in no way advocating for either. Indeed, the debate of more vs. less is flawed in and of itself. It’s about the overall design of legislation and, importantly, how it interacts with other measures, such as income support. In Canada right now, those two broad policy levers are working together to position us so we recover from this unprecedented shock.

Steven Tobin

Steven Tobin is the Executive Director of the Labour Market Information Council. Steven provides the overall strategic leadership and management to the LMIC with the guidance of the Board of Directors and two advisory panels. 

steven.tobin@lmic-cimt.ca

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