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Labour Demand Trends During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This report is based on an analysis of online job postings in the pre-pandemic and pandemic periods. We discuss both changes in total job postings and changes in job postings across geography, occupations, skills, and sectors.

Key Takeaways

1

The economic shutdown that followed the COVID-19 pandemic affected a large share of the Canadian workforce. By mid-April, the number of Canadians who were unemployed or underemployed due to the shutdown reached 5.5 million, and in May, the unemployment rate reached 13.7%, the highest rate recorded since comparable data became available in 1976.

2

Workers employed in industries where close physical contact is required and where working from home is less common were more likely to lose their jobs. Youth, women, and recent immigrants were also more likely to be unemployed due to the economic shutdown.

3

The possibility of remote work is skewed towards individuals who are financially better off. Existing data shows that high-income earners, families in the top decile of the income distribution, and workers with higher education are significantly more likely to have jobs that can be done from home.

Executive Summary

The economic shutdown that followed the COVID-19 pandemic affected a large share of the Canadian workforce. By mid-April, the number of Canadians who were unemployed or underemployed due to the shutdown reached 5.5 million, and in May, the unemployment rate reached 13.7%, the highest rate recorded since comparable data became available in 1976. While no part of the economy was shielded from the impacts of the shutdown, the economic risks and impacts were not uniformly distributed among Canadians. Workers employed in industries where close physical contact is required and where working from home is less common were more likely to lose their jobs. Youth, women, and recent immigrants were also more likely to be unemployed due to the economic shutdown.

Many businesses were able to rapidly move their work and service online so that a large number of workers were able to keep working during the shutdown. By April 2020, 5 million Canadians were working from home, of whom two-thirds did not work from home before the pandemic. However, not all Canadian workers have access to these kinds of jobs. In reality, the possibility of remote work is skewed towards individuals who are financially better off. Existing data shows that high-income earners, families in the top decile of the income distribution, and workers with higher education are significantly more likely to have jobs that can be done from home.

In a series of reports focused on the labour market during the COVID-19 pandemic, we discuss the trends and patterns of labour demand across Canada. This first report is based on an analysis of online job postings in the pre-pandemic and pandemic periods. We discuss both changes in total job postings and changes in job postings across geography, occupations, skills, and sectors. The data used in this paper is extracted from the Vicinity Jobs Hiring Demand Analytics Suite that collates online job postings across Canada. The biggest advantage of this data is that it provides near real-time information on hiring demand by skills, location, and other granular information that is often not available from labour surveys. However, vacancies that are not posted online and hiring through word-of-mouth are not included.

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