OTTAWA — Canada posted its first monthly decline in jobs since April amid tightened public health restrictions in December, and economists warn the losses are likely to continue in January as the number of new COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Statistics Canada said Friday the economy lost 63,000 jobs in December while the unemployment rate edged up to 8.6 per cent compared with 8.5 per cent in November.
“Due to both the continuing rise in virus cases to open the new year and the further curtailments of activity since the last survey, another month of job losses could be on the horizon in January,” CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes said.
“The weak jobs report, combined with the recent appreciation of the Canadian dollar, will put pressure on the Bank of Canada to ease monetary policy further.”
Statistics Canada said its report was a snapshot of labour market conditions for the week of Dec. 6 to 12. It noted that additional public health measures were put in place in many provinces after that period and would likely to be reflected in its January labour force survey results.
Several provinces have also further extended COVID-19 restrictions as public health officials blamed holiday gatherings for a rise in infections.
TD Bank senior economist Sri Thanabalasingam said the resurgence of the virus is hitting Canada hard.
“Sharp increases in caseloads and hospitalizations are leaving provinces with little choice but to impose or prolong restrictions on an economy that is but a shadow of itself,” Thanabalasingam wrote in a report.
“It will be a rocky road for the Canadian economy until vaccines can be widely distributed and normal life can resume.”
Mendes noted that when the restrictions began to ease last spring and summer, the rebound in the economy came quickly.
“The good news is that last summer we saw a pretty sharp snapback at a time when virus cases were low and public health restrictions were eased, so that should give people some optimism that after this rough patch is hopefully behind us, the economy can bounce back quite well in the short-term,” he said.
The job losses in December ended a streak of monthly job gains that began in May, when initial restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the pandemic began to ease.
Full-time employment in December rose by 36,500, but there was a loss of 99,000 part-time jobs.
Statistics Canada said that total hours worked fell for the first time since April as they declined 0.3 per cent in December.
By April last year the COVID-19 economic shutdown had directly affected 5.5 million Canadian workers, including 3.0 million who had lost their job and 2.5 million who were employed but had experienced COVID-related absences from work.
The number affected was 1.1 million in December, including a drop in employment of 636,000 since February and 488,000 more Canadians who were employed but working less than half their usual hours for reasons likely related to COVID.
December employment fell in industries most directly affected by the new and continuing public health measures.
The number of jobs in the services-producing side of the economy fell for the first time since April as it lost a total of 74,000 in December. The goods-producing sector gained 11,300 jobs.
The accommodation and food services industry lost 56,700 jobs for the month, while the “other services” category, which includes hair salons, laundry services and other areas affected by public health measures, lost 30,800. The information, culture and recreation group lost 18,800.
However, the manufacturing sector gained 15,000 jobs in December, driven by an increase in Ontario.
The share of Canadians working from home was 28.6 per cent in December.
Financial data firm Refinitiv says economists on average had expected the report to show a loss of 27,500 jobs for December. The unemployment rate was expected to be 8.6 per cent.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2021.
Craig Wong, The Canadian Press
Biden on brink of passing historic $1.9tn boost to US economy – Financial Times
Joe Biden is on the brink of securing final approval from Congress for his $1.9tn stimulus bill — a bet that massive fiscal intervention aimed at lower and middle class families will speed up America’s recovery without overheating the economy.
After the US Senate voted to approve the package on Saturday, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is poised to give its final green light to the bill on Tuesday, allowing it to be signed into law by Biden.
Barring any last-minute trouble in the House, where Democrats hold a slim majority, the stimulus legislation will mark a big political victory for Biden, who made it his top priority since entering the White House on January 20.
The stimulus bill — known as the American Rescue Plan — represents one of the largest US government interventions in the economy of the post-world war two era — just short of the size of the $2.2tn March 2020 pandemic stimulus, but larger than the $787bn recovery plan during the 2009 financial crisis.
The prospects for its passage have already led many private-sector economists to upgrade their forecasts for US growth this year. Federal Reserve officials are likely to do the same when they publish their latest economic projections next week.
But the plan has attracted criticism from Republican lawmakers — who have so far unanimously opposed the plan — as well as some economists, including Lawrence Summers, the treasury secretary under Bill Clinton — who say it risks a harmful spike in inflation.
A recent sell-off in long-term government debt — with yields on 10-year Treasury bonds rising above 1.5 per cent for the first time in more than a year — has fuelled those concerns, though senior US policymakers including Janet Yellen, the treasury secretary, and Jay Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, have dismissed the worries.
Around the world, the US stimulus package could give a fresh jolt to the global recovery amid hopes that widespread vaccinations throughout the year will help reopen many economies. But any unintended jump in US inflation or debt yields could unsettle markets and prove particularly harmful for emerging markets.
Domestically, Biden’s top aides and many Democrats on Sunday touted the plan as “historic and transformational” legislation for families that have struggled through the pandemic. The bill — which will be financed entirely by adding to the US deficit — will dispatch $1,400 means-tested payments to most Americans; extend emergency federal jobless benefits worth $300 per week until September; increase a tax credit for children; provide aid to states and local governments; and boost funding for schools and vaccinations.
“This is a bill that reflects President Biden’s belief that the best way to get the economy back on track and get it growing is to invest in working people and middle class people,” Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, told CNN. “It is urgent aid that is going to help people all across the country but it’s also making a long-term investment,” she added.
The US president had applauded passage of the Senate’s version in remarks on Saturday, following an all-night session in the upper chamber of Congress.
Biden was on Sunday expected to sign an executive order to boost voting rights, at an event commemorating the civil rights protesters who were tear-gassed and beaten by state troopers in Selma Alabama 56 years ago.
Senate passage of the stimulus legislation — by a party-line 50 to 49 vote — was held up for hours as Democratic leaders sought to get the decisive consent of Joe Manchin, the moderate West Virginia Democrat, who was insisting on tighter terms for the jobless benefits.
On Sunday, Manchin did the rounds of US television networks to trumpet his role in the talks, rejecting any fears that the Biden plan was excessive.
“I can assure you, we have helped every segment of society right now, more so than ever before with this piece of targeted legislation,” he told Fox News Sunday.
The global economy won't recover if we don't get vaccines to developing countries, too – CNN
First, step up efforts to end the health crisis
Second, step up the fight against the economic crisis
Third, step up support to vulnerable countries
With many vaccinated, Israel reopens economy before election – NEWS 1130 – News 1130
JERUSALEM — Israel reopened most of its economy Sunday as part of its final phase of lifting coronavirus lockdown restrictions, some of them in place since September.
The easing of restrictions comes after months of government-imposed shutdowns and less than three weeks before the country’s fourth parliamentary elections in two years. Israel, a world leader in vaccinations per capita, has surged forward with immunizing nearly 40% of its population in just over two months.
Bars and restaurants, event halls, sporting events, hotels and all primary and secondary schools that had been closed to the public for months could reopen with some restrictions in place on the number of people in attendance, and with certain places open to the vaccinated only.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government approved the easing of limitations Saturday night, including the reopening of the main international airport to a limited number of incoming passengers each day.
Netanyahu is campaigning for reelection as Israel’s coronavirus vaccine champion at the same time that he is on trial for corruption.
Israel has sped ahead with its immunization campaign. Over 52% of its population of 9.3 million has received one dose and almost 40% two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, one of the highest rates per capita in the world. After striking a deal to obtain large quantities of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines in exchange for medical data, Israel has distributed over 8.6 million doses since launching its vaccination campaign in late December.
While vaccination rates continue to steadily rise and the number of serious cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, drops, Israel’s unemployment rate remains high. As of January, 18.4% of the workforce was out of work because of the pandemic, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.
At the same time that it has deployed vaccines to its own citizens, Israel has provided few vaccines for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a move that has underscored global disparities. It has faced criticism for not sharing significant quantities of its vaccine stockpiles with the Palestinians. On Friday, Israel postponed plans to vaccinate Palestinians who work inside the country and its West Bank settlements until further notice.
Israeli officials have said that its priority is vaccinating its own population first, while the Palestinian Authority has said it would fend for itself in obtaining vaccines from the WHO-led partnership with humanitarian organizations known as COVAX.
Israel has confirmed at least 800,000 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and 5,861 deaths, according to the Health Ministry.
Ilan Ben Zion, The Associated Press
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