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Economy lost 213000 jobs in January as lockdown measures hit Ontario, Quebec – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Canada’s labour market saw months of gains wiped out in a matter of weeks as widespread lockdowns and school closures erased 212,800 jobs in January, hitting mothers and youth particularly hard.

The monthly job declines were the worst seen since last April, sending the unemployment rate up 0.6 percentage points to 9.4 per cent, the highest rate since August.

The unemployment rate would have been 12 per cent in January had Statistics Canada included in its calculations Canadians who wanted to work but didn’t search for a job.

Losses in January marked a second straight month that the labour market contracted after 63,000 positions disappeared in December to break a streak of monthly gains that began in May 2020.

After clawing back from an unprecedented drop of three million jobs over March and April, the country plunged backwards and is now short 858,300 jobs, or 4.5 per cent, of employment levels from last February before the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

January’s losses were concentrated in Ontario and Quebec where lockdowns and restrictions closed businesses and schools to rein in rising COVID-19 case counts.

Steep declines in part-time work, particularly among teenagers, and in service-industry jobs, including retail, overshadowed small upticks in full-time workers and in goods-producing sectors.

Brendon Bernard, an economist with job-posting website Indeed, said retail could quickly rebound as it did at the start of last summer if the pandemic is brought under control.

“Hopefully, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel in that regard,” he said, referring to vaccines, “and really that’s the main reason for optimism going forward.”

Employment fell faster for core-aged women than men and was particularly acute for mothers with elementary-aged children. With schools closed and students learning remotely, parents across the country saw the largest monthly jobs decline since last April.

Since last year, women have dropped out of the labour force faster than men to take care of their children, on top of being over-represented in industries targeted by increased restrictions, said Kaylie Tiessen, an economist and policy analyst for Unifor.

Even as their children have gone back to school with reopenings in parts of Ontario, Tiessen said women, youth and racialized workers have a cloud of uncertainty of when they may return to work because of lingering restrictions.

“There’s this double whammy of the restrictions have to lift in order for us to be able to even begin to go back (to work),” she said, “and after the restrictions lift is when we’ll know more about who’s going back and where.”

The challenge facing governments is how to reshape aid so workers have a springboard back into the workforce and possibly in new jobs, said Mikal Skuterud, a labour market expert from the University of Waterloo.

“A lot of those jobs in retail, and food and accommodation are not coming back,” Skuterud said. “We’re certainly not going back to where we would have been…if the pandemic had never happened.”

The Liberals’ upcoming budget, and a promise to spend up to $100 billion over three years on stimulus measures, may yield some answers about how to unwind blanket programs businesses and families have come to rely on.

Robert Asselin, senior vice-president at the Business Council of Canada, said the budget should target support to help Canadians find new work and allow them to be more productive.

Asselin, a former budget adviser to the Trudeau Liberals, pointed to work by the Biden administration to focus spending on research and development as well as infrastructure to help the American economy recover.

“The government says it’s working on it for the budget, but if (the budget) is just focused on more money for consumption, I think it will miss the mark.”

In the short-term, governments are facing calls to find new ways to manage the pandemic. The country “simply cannot afford to be in a holding pattern until vaccines arrive,” said Leah Nord, senior director of workforce strategies at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said the Liberals should quickly roll out more rapid tests for provinces to use as business groups have asked.

“We don’t know why Trudeau has been so slow in approving rapid tests, but certainly our jobs and economy have suffered as a result of his delays,” he said.

Economists noted hiccups in vaccination efforts and more contagious variants of COVID-19 may mean restrictions remain for longer and further delay a recovery. Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said that drags down confidence among businesses and workers.

“Restoring confidence depends on the ability of this government to get the vaccines delivered,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought do to that Friday, talking about his confidence in delivery schedules despite short-term hiccups. He also said he is strongly encouraging provinces to use rapid tests and pointed to existing aid programs when asked what more the government could do for workers.

“We’re not at the end yet,” he said outside his Ottawa residence. “We know we’re going to have to continue to hang in there.”

With files from Maan Alhmidi and Mike Blanchfield in Ottawa

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2021.

 

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Economists predict slight rebound and moderate growth for B.C. economy in 2021 – North Shore News

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VICTORIA — Finance Minister Selina Robinson said she’s encouraged by predictions that British Columbia’s economy will rebound this year and next. 

Robinson heard Friday from economists on the province’s Economic Forecast Council who estimate B.C. is on track for real GDP growth of 4.7 per cent this year and 4.3 per cent next year, before growth slows. 

The same measurement for the provincial economy in 2020 shows a 5.1 per cent decline, the worst contraction since 1980.

“We can see the light at the end, but we’re still in the tunnel,” Robinson said in an interview after the hearing from the council. 

The council of economists from major financial institutions and business associations warned that the strength of recovery depends heavily on the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. 

Recovery is expected to escalate as the province reaches herd immunity and consumer activity increases, while work ramps up in areas like construction on resource projects.

All signs point to a strong recovery in the United States, which will also help boost B.C.’s rebound, several economists said during the session. 

But Robinson also heard the recovery won’t be felt evenly, with certain hard-hit industries and low-wage earners tending to suffer the greatest ongoing impacts of the pandemic. 

Women, people of colour and those without more than a high school education have fared worse than others, Robinson heard. 

At the same time, the skilled labour market is expected to tighten, suggesting good government policy could involve investment in training, education and financial support for those transitioning to new industries, she heard. 

“Obviously, here we are 10 months out and there are some doing really well and others being completely left behind,” Robinson said. 

“What caught my attention was making sure that we’re investing right now in people, but also into the future.”

Online shopping will likely change retail in the long term, while struggling sectors like tourism may see a strong, if delayed, rebound thanks to pent-up demand for travel and leisure, Robinson heard. 

The challenge will be to bridge the current situation to the time when there is herd immunity, while maintaining an active tourism sector, she said. 

The minister said the next B.C. budget will focus on continuing to support British Columbians through the emergency of the pandemic while investing in the future. 

The government will table its budget on April 20 after legislation passed in December allowed it to delay its introduction from the traditional date in February.

The B.C. government announced late last year that the deficit forecast had grown and the budget shortfall was expected to hit $13.6 billion this fiscal year. 

The Finance Ministry predicted B.C.’s economy would decline by 6.2 per cent in 2020, but growth was expected to rebound to three per cent in 2021. 

Liberal finance critic Mike Bernier said the economic forecast report makes clear there is much more work in store for the New Democrat government on the road to economic recovery. It begins with fixing “growing problems” in their current support programs, he said in a statement. 

“The forecast council is doing important work looking ahead to the economic future of British Columbia, and that is certainly vital, but we cannot let the government forget about the here and now,” Bernier said. 

He accused the government of fumbling the provision of economic support at nearly every turn, from delayed pandemic pay to a “botched” rollout for small and medium-sized businesses. 

Of the $300 million set aside for B.C. businesses at the beginning of the pandemic, only $21 million has been distributed, Bernier said. 

“We need to see (Premier) John Horgan and his government take immediate steps to fix their ineffective programs and provide people with the relief they need to make it through this pandemic.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

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Canadian dollar falls by most since October as risk appetite frays

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Canadian dollar

By Fergal Smith

TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian dollar tumbled against its broadly stronger U.S. counterpart on Friday as this week’s spike in bond yields weighed on investor sentiment, with the loonie extending its pullback from a three-year high the day before.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.9% lower at 1.2710 to the greenback, or 78.68 U.S. cents, its biggest decline since last October. It touched its weakest since Feb. 18 at 1.2729, while it was down 0.8% for the week.

On Thursday, the loonie touched its strongest intraday level since February 2018 at 1.2464.

“The loonie is losing ground along with other risk assets as market volatility increased on a small tantrum over the rising U.S. yields,” said Amo Sahota, director at Klarity FX in San Francisco.

The safe-haven U.S. dollar rose against a basket of major currencies and global equity markets swooned, even as the bond selloff eased a bit. Fears of rising inflation still weighed on sentiment as data showed a strong rebound in U.S. consumer spending.

“The underlying fundamentals are unchanged so commodity demand strength will remain robust and that should help underpin the loonie and prevent this from turning into a complete rout,” Sahota said.

Oil prices settled 3.2% lower at $61.50 a barrel as forecasts called for crude supply to rise in response to prices climbing above pre-pandemic levels.

Canada‘s C$100 billion ($79 billion) stimulus plan is justified by the economic hole caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, government sources said, as analysts warned Ottawa against racking up too much debt and making investments that fail to boost growth.

Canadian government bond yields fell across a flatter curve in sympathy with U.S. Treasuries. The 10-year was down 6.8 basis points at 1.398%.

On Thursday, it touched a 13-month high at 1.486%, while it was up 18.5 basis points for the week.

 

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and David Gregorio)

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Economists predict slight rebound and moderate growth for B.C. economy in 2021 – The Tri-City News

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VICTORIA — Finance Minister Selina Robinson said she’s encouraged by predictions that British Columbia’s economy will rebound this year and next. 

Robinson heard Friday from economists on the province’s Economic Forecast Council who estimate B.C. is on track for real GDP growth of 4.7 per cent this year and 4.3 per cent next year, before growth slows. 

The same measurement for the provincial economy in 2020 shows a 5.1 per cent decline, the worst contraction since 1980.

“We can see the light at the end, but we’re still in the tunnel,” Robinson said in an interview after the hearing from the council. 

The council of economists from major financial institutions and business associations warned that the strength of recovery depends heavily on the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. 

Recovery is expected to escalate as the province reaches herd immunity and consumer activity increases, while work ramps up in areas like construction on resource projects.

All signs point to a strong recovery in the United States, which will also help boost B.C.’s rebound, several economists said during the session. 

But Robinson also heard the recovery won’t be felt evenly, with certain hard-hit industries and low-wage earners tending to suffer the greatest ongoing impacts of the pandemic. 

Women, people of colour and those without more than a high school education have fared worse than others, Robinson heard. 

At the same time, the skilled labour market is expected to tighten, suggesting good government policy could involve investment in training, education and financial support for those transitioning to new industries, she heard. 

“Obviously, here we are 10 months out and there are some doing really well and others being completely left behind,” Robinson said. 

“What caught my attention was making sure that we’re investing right now in people, but also into the future.”

Online shopping will likely change retail in the long term, while struggling sectors like tourism may see a strong, if delayed, rebound thanks to pent-up demand for travel and leisure, Robinson heard. 

The challenge will be to bridge the current situation to the time when there is herd immunity, while maintaining an active tourism sector, she said. 

The minister said the next B.C. budget will focus on continuing to support British Columbians through the emergency of the pandemic while investing in the future. 

The government will table its budget on April 20 after legislation passed in December allowed it to delay its introduction from the traditional date in February.

The B.C. government announced late last year that the deficit forecast had grown and the budget shortfall was expected to hit $13.6 billion this fiscal year. 

The Finance Ministry predicted B.C.’s economy would decline by 6.2 per cent in 2020, but growth was expected to rebound to three per cent in 2021. 

Liberal finance critic Mike Bernier said the economic forecast report makes clear there is much more work in store for the New Democrat government on the road to economic recovery. It begins with fixing “growing problems” in their current support programs, he said in a statement. 

“The forecast council is doing important work looking ahead to the economic future of British Columbia, and that is certainly vital, but we cannot let the government forget about the here and now,” Bernier said. 

He accused the government of fumbling the provision of economic support at nearly every turn, from delayed pandemic pay to a “botched” rollout for small and medium-sized businesses. 

Of the $300 million set aside for B.C. businesses at the beginning of the pandemic, only $21 million has been distributed, Bernier said. 

“We need to see (Premier) John Horgan and his government take immediate steps to fix their ineffective programs and provide people with the relief they need to make it through this pandemic.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

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