Last week saw provincial governments begin implementing plans to restart the economy and ease restrictions that have confined millions to their homes. Some provinces are being more cautious than others.
Quebec, the hardest hit province by far, has chosen to gamble. Its curve of new infections appears to finally be turning down, but its number of cases and deaths remains far above the rest of Canada. And at least half of those cases, and almost two-thirds of deaths, are in Montreal, making it one of the most infected cities in North America.
Nevertheless, the government reopened daycare facilities and primary schools off the island of Montreal last week, the only province to return kids to classrooms. Schools in Montreal will remain closed until September, but daycares on the island will reopen on June 1. The province also aims to put almost half a million people back to work in retail, construction and manufacturing by the end of May, albeit with physical-distancing restrictions.
Ontario, Canada’s second-worst hit province, is being more cautious.
Retail outlets that are not inside malls and some residential construction sites will reopen as of Tuesday. Golf courses, marinas, campgrounds and pet kennels reopened in time for the Victoria Day long weekend.
But the return to school remains on hold. Premier Doug Ford doesn’t want to take his foot off the physical-distancing brake until it’s clear that the number of new cases of COVID-19 are low (they’re not yet) and decreasing (they appear to be), and that Ontario’s health system is equipped to handle any new wave of infections.
The different approaches by the two largest provinces, which together account for 84 per cent of Canada’s known coronavirus infections, are indicative of the tension between preventing a new surge in infections by imposing physical distancing and economic lockdown, and turning the economic growth curve in a positive direction, which can only happen to the degree that measures as eased.
But those economically constricting measures can only be eased to the degree that the curve is flattened. It all comes down to the virus fight.
A small alphabet of letters and symbols is being used to describe the various ways in which the economy might bounce back. The one most hoped for is the V-shaped recovery, in which the plummet caused by the pandemic is matched by an equally sharp pop back to where the economy was at the start of this year.
A more likely scenario, given the fact that new COVID-19 outbreaks are cropping up in Germany, China and Lebanon after governments there eased restrictions, may be one shaped like a capital W. That would mean a series of economic stops and starts, as governments lift restrictions on people’s movement, but are then obliged to reintroduce them, again and again, if infections spike. Not ideal.
Another less-than-ideal possibility: that the sharp economic downturn will be followed by a long, slow recovery, leaving a chart of economic activity that looks like the famous Nike “swoosh” logo. Absent the right policies for stimulating the economy and fighting the pandemic, a swoosh could be in any country’s future.
The worst-case scenario would be an L-shaped recovery, where the flattened economy sits at the bottom of its descent and stubbornly remains there.
However, it’s important to remember that predicting the course of the economy is not like forecasting the weather. The level of economic growth is dependent on the course of the virus – and both are, to great extent, within our control. Government decisions, and our collective actions, will decide whether tomorrow’s weather is sunny, or not.
We have said it before and we will say it again: To ensure clear skies ahead, Canada needs a lot more testing, better testing, faster testing and the ability to quickly do contact tracing on a massive scale. That this hasn’t happened yet is becoming a source of national exasperation. Canada remains way too far behind on the one issue that is critical for reviving the economy while keeping the virus in check.
Flattening the virus, while upwardly curving the flatlining economy, is now the most important job of government.
That will also require a no-expenses-spared effort to create a COVID-19 vaccine in record time. To turn a phrase on its head, you can’t spell V without a vaccine.
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Seniors having big impact on local economy – Quinte News
With June being Seniors’ Month, Quinte News is looking at the impact that those 65 and over have on our community and more specifically, on local businesses.
Close to 20% of the Quinte Region’s population falls into the senior category, with the area’s cost of living, natural amenities and sometimes slower pace to life, being attractive qualities for the area to have.
But it’s not just seniors relocating here that’s making a difference for the local economy.
Bay of Quinte Regional Marketing Board Executive Director Dug Stevenson says, there are plenty of older people who find our area attractive as a place to visit and spend some cash.
“One of the things that’s interesting is when you consider seniors’ spending”, he says.
“Of course they’re on a fixed income, but they have fewer things they need to pay for as well. They probably don’t have a mortgage anymore, the kids are probably gone and they’re not worried about paying for things like education, so they’ve probably got a bit more set aside for that leisure spending”.
Stevenson says from a travel and tourism perspective, the seniors group is actually more comparable to Millennials, who range between the ages of 22 and 38.
“A lot of them have no strings attached. They have a fixed income, but have money set aside and they know what they want to do and go do it.”, he says.
Quinte West Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Andrews says seniors who live in the area have a strong impact on the economy, but not just as consumers of goods.
“They access a lot of services” she says. “Things like health services, some of which are privately owned businesses, or they go to hairdressers and restaurants. So definitely they are a huge economic factor when looking at the local economy and consumer spending in our region”.
Andrews also noted that while many seniors do move to our area to retire, not all of them want to get out of work completely, which adds to the local workforce.
“We are finding here in the Quinte Region especially, seniors are choosing to continue to work, maybe not at a full time level, but are available to work and look for positions that fit their experience and knowledge”, she says. “That’s definitely something for employers to think about”.
Unemployment rate hits new record even as economy adds jobs – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, June 5, 2020 5:18AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 5, 2020 3:25PM EDT
OTTAWA – Canada’s employment minister says the federal government is rethinking a key COVID-19 benefit so workers have more incentive to get back on the job, in an effort to maintain a surprising boost in job numbers from May.
Statistics Canada reported that the country got back 289,600 jobs in May – which mirrored a similar bump in the U.S. – after three million jobs were lost over March and April and about 2.5 million more people had their hours slashed.
Provincially, Quebec led the way, gaining 231,000 jobs as it became one of the first provinces to ease restrictions, doing so just before Statistics Canada collected data the week of May 10. Ontario was the only province with losses, albeit at a slower pace than in March and April.
Combined with more people reporting getting regular hours, the agency said Canada had recovered only 10.6 per cent of employment losses and absences related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Friday’s jobs report showed the unemployment rate in May rose to 13.7 per cent, the highest level in more than four decades of comparable data. But that’s because more people started looking for work – meaning the rate shouldn’t be taken as a sign of underlying weakness, said CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes.
The unemployment rate is a measure of the people looking for work who can’t find it, meaning it can actually decline if job-seekers give up, or increase as formerly discouraged seekers see new signs of hope.
Still, the monthly labour force survey showed that men gained back more jobs than women, resulting in a wider gender gap in employment losses as a result of COVID-19, and that the pandemic continued to disproportionately affect lower-wage workers.
To keep gains going, business and labour groups called for a revamp of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the employment insurance system.
The first cohort of recipients of the $500-a-week payment will max out their 16 weeks of benefits in early July. Some may qualify for employment insurance, while others may not have any work available, meaning significant drops in income that could hamper the path to recovery, said TD senior economist Brian DePratto.
The Canadian Labour Congress and Canadian Chamber of Commerce separately called for reforms to the decades-old EI system, which the Liberals determined early on in the crisis couldn’t handle the influx of jobless claims.
Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough suggested all ideas are on the table when it comes to EI, and the future of the CERB.
“As we look into the months coming … we’ve got a different goal in mind: People need to get back to work safely,” she said at a midday press conference.
“So our thinking moving forward is how do we balance a need to continue to support workers, while not disincentivizing work?”
The most recent federal figures show 8.37 million people applied for the CERB, with $43.18 billion in payments as of June 2. Qualtrough said 1.2 million recipients no longer require it, although it wasn’t immediately clear why.
The Canada Revenue Agency also said this week that almost 190,000 payments of wrongfully received benefits had been made as of June 3.
Economists had been watching the CERB numbers as a proxy for Friday’s jobs report, which set up expectations for another round of job losses.
CERB figures will continued to be watched to track possible job losses and compare it to areas where there are signs of progress, said Brendon Bernard, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab.
“The strength of this rebound is going to depend to a significant degree on what happens with layoffs,” he said in an interview. “We could see some areas of the economy bounce-back as shuttered sectors reopen, but if layoffs continue, then it’s going to be tough for net job gains to be particularly strong.”
The total number of unemployed Canadians doubled from February to April, a surge driven by temporary layoffs that the vast majority of workers expected to last less than six months.
At the same time, there was a spike in the number of people who wanted to work but weren’t actively looking for jobs, likely because the economic shutdown has limited job opportunities. People not actively seeking work aren’t counted in unemployment figures.
The unemployment rate for May would have been 19.6 per cent had the report counted among the unemployed those who stopped looking for work – largely unchanged since April.
Statistics Canada said lower-wage workers recovered just over one-10th of the losses they experienced in March and April. But they continued to be a higher share of people working less than half of their usual hours.
Lower-wage workers were among the first- and hardest-hit during the shutdown, largely because they worked in industries like retail, restaurants and hotels that closed early in the pandemic.
Besides seeing less improvement generally compared with men, women with children under age six saw slower job gains than those with older children.
Rebounds were also weak for students and recent immigrants.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2020.
Saskatchewan says economy is rebounding despite 12.5% unemployment rate – Globalnews.ca
The Saskatchewan government is feeling confident its economy is on the rebound.
By the end of April, the unemployment rate in the province was 11.3 per cent. Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate is, however, the second-lowest among provinces and below the national average of 13.7 per cent.
“The Saskatchewan workforce is still being seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic but there are a number of signs that show Saskatchewan’s economy is both recovering faster, and was less impacted, than other provinces,” said Jeremy Harrison, immigration and career training minister, in a statement.
“We have the second-lowest unemployment rate in Canada and the number of people working rose in May, which is a strong, positive sign in the COVID-19 era. The Saskatchewan economy is positioned to strongly improve as we move forward with the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan.”
In Saskatchewan, there were 600 more jobs in May than April, while 87 per cent of those working in February were working in May.
Since February, the number of hours worked in the province has dropped by 9.1 per cent. It’s the second-lowest decline in provinces. Nationally, the average decline in the number of hours worked over that same period is 19.3 per cent.
Coronavirus outbreak: All options on the table for benefits to help those impacted by COVID-19
“Looking forward, we are seeing positive economic news in Saskatchewan, including announcements about helium and lithium recently,” Harrison said.
“These new investments will bring jobs and investment to communities across the province and will help lift our economy out of the current challenges facing markets globally.”
The province said businesses in Saskatchewan are faring better than other jurisdictions, claiming to have closed fewer than other provinces did.
“This speaks to the strength of Saskatchewan’s economy and a strong reopening plan aiding in economic recovery,” the province said in a release issued on Friday.
Despite the optimism from the provincial government, the Saskatchewan NDP has laid out three actions it believes the province should take right now to strengthen the economy going forward.
First, to put Saskatchewan businesses and workers first through a Sask-first procurement plan that helps keep jobs in the province. Secondly, make the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency program more accessible.
Saskatchewan tops up economic stimulus package by $2 billion
Finally, to end the six-month lockout between Regina’s Co-op Refinery and its workers, which would put 800 Saskatchewan people back to work.
“New Democrats have urged Premier Moe and this Sask. Party government to protect jobs and small businesses, but clearly not enough has been done,” Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said.
“We know that Saskatchewan’s economy was already shrinking before COVID – and now the Premier’s lack of action to put Saskatchewan workers and businesses first is making things worse.”
Saskatchewan continues its reopen plan with Phase 3 beginning on June 8.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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