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Staff in Foothills maternity test positive for COVID-19




Alberta Health Services said Wednesday evening that cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed among the staff of a maternity unit at Foothills hospital in Calgary.

The most recent confirmed case was seven days ago, AHS said in a statement.

AHS refused to do an interview about the situation and would not confirm how many health-care workers have been infected. It said contact tracing was done, which identified no infections among patients to date.

“There has been a robust response from Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) and Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) with enhanced screening/surveillance for all health-care workers, patients and their support person,” an AHS spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

On Thursday afternoon, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, told reporters there were seven staff members on the ward who tested positive.

AHS said there is no increased risk to pregnant patients, and said Foothills continues to be a safe location to deliver babies and receive care.

An Alberta Health spokesperson said in an email that COVID-19 cases may continue to be identified in every part of Alberta, including health-care settings.

“Health officials have taken every possible step to support the small number of those impacted and ensure there is no broader risk to any patients, mothers or newborns,” the email read.

Pregnant women not at higher risk

According to Health Canada, there is no evidence to suggest pregnant women are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 or that a developing child may be negatively affected.

There is also no evidence of mother-to-child transmission of COVID-19. The virus that causes COVID-19 has also not been found in breast milk.


Updated April 19, 2020 by Harry Miller



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CMHC tightens mortgage insurance rules starting July 1 –



The government-backed Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp said on Thursday it would tighten rules for offering mortgage insurance from July 1, after forecasting declines of between 9  and 18 per cent in home prices over the next 12 months.

The move would make it harder for riskier borrowers, who offer downpayments of less than 20 per cent to access CMHC’s default mortgage insurance.

CMHC is establishing a minimum credit score of 680 instead of the current 600, the group said in an emailed statement.

It will also limit total gross debt servicing ratios to its standard requirement of 35 per cent of annual income, compared with a threshold as high as 39 per cent currently, and total debt servicing to 42 per cent versus as much as 44 per cent now.

The measures will help curtail “excessive demand and unsustainable house price growth,” CMHC CEO Evan Siddall said in the statement.

He said COVID-19 has exposed longstanding financial-market vulnerabilities, and “we must act now to protect the economic futures of Canadians.”

James Laird, Co-founder of and president of mortgage brokerage CanWise, said the change to the debt service ratio will have the biggest impact of the three changes.

That’s because under the current gross debt service ratio cap of 39 per cent, a family with an annual income of $100,000 and a 10 per cent down payment would have qualified to buy a home valued at up to $524,980, Laird calculates. Under the new rules, that same family can only get approved to buy a home worth $462,860 — a reduction of 12 per cent.

Laird said the most impactful development was the CMHC’s decision to leave minimum down payment sizes where they are. “The biggest news coming out of the announcement from the CMHC is that they did not increase the minimum down payment from 5 percent to 10 per cent,” he said.

Such a move would have required any buyers to have far more saved up before being approved to buy, which would make the pool of potential buyers much shallower.

1 in 3 mortgages in Canada

Some 35 per cent of Canadian banks’ mortgages are insured, their financial statements show. CMHC is the top mortgage insurer, while Genworth MI Canada and other private companies also provide similar products.

Despite evaporating activity in the housing market due to the COVID-19 pandemic, prices have continued to rise as listings have fallen off alongside demand.

Home prices across the country rose 1.3 per cent in April from March, and data from Toronto and Vancouver real estate boards showed increases of 3 per cent and 2.9 per cent in May, respectively, from a year earlier.

The CMHC has taken a more bearish view of the housing market than others. Last week, some of Canada’s biggest banks forecast maximum price declines of about 7 per cent.

Siddall last week responded to critics of its more dire outlook, saying on Twitter they were “whistling past the graveyard and offering no analysis.”

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Canada unexpectedly adds 290,000 jobs on gradual reopening – Financial Post



Canada’s labour market unexpectedly strengthened after two-straight months of record losses as the country gradually reopens from COVID-19 related restrictions.

Employment rose by 289,600 in May, Statistics Canada said Friday in Ottawa, surprising economists who had been anticipating more losses last month. The gains were across most industries and provinces, though largely driven by higher employment in Quebec, the province hardest hit by the pandemic.

The numbers echo recent high-frequency data, which had signalled a recovery is underway, with job postings increasing and more Canadians reporting an increase in work at the end of May. They will be a relief to policy makers who had been scrambling to inject hundreds of billions in cash into the economy to keep it afloat. Still, just under 5 million remain without work or substantially reduced hours with the jobless rate at postwar records.

“The surprisingly positive readings on employment paint a more optimistic picture of the early part of the recovery, but there’s still a long road back,” Royce Mendes, an economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said in a research report. “The increase in May only represents 10 per cent of the COVID-19-related job losses and absences that occurred over the prior two months.”

The pick up in May follows an unprecedented loss of about 3 million jobs in March and April. More than 2 million employed Canadians continue to experience much lower hours worked than pre-crisis.

The unemployment rate ticked up to 13.7 per cent in May, from 13 per cent in April, as people returned to the labour force.

Economists in a Bloomberg survey expected a loss of 500,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate rising to 15 per cent.

Canada’s currency extended gains on the result, appreciating 0.7 per cent to C$1.3406 against its U.S. counterpart at 9:46 a.m. Toronto time. Yields on two-year government bonds rose 2 basis points to 0.35 per cent.

The better-than-expected report suggests the governments programs to cushion the blow to the labour market are working. By mid-May, 179,000 businesses had applied for the government’s 75 per cent wage subsidy program. The pace of applications to Canada’s emergency income benefit program has also decelerated in recent weeks, suggesting the worst of the layoffs and job losses is over.

In addition to the employment pick up, Statistics Canada said the number of people who worked less than half their usual hours dropped by 292,000. That means the number of Canadians who have either lost their job or worked substantially fewer hours has fallen to just under 5 million, from about 5.5 million in April. Hours worked rose 6.3 per cent in May from the prior month but were still 23 per cent below February’s levels.

Cautious Reopening

The surprise jump reflects the cautious reopening of the economy across provinces. By the time the employment survey was taken from May 10 to May 16, some provinces including B.C., Saskatchewan and Quebec allowed some non-essential businesses to reopen.

Quebec accounted for nearly 80 per cent of May’s gains, the statistics agency said. In contrast, Ontario -– where the economy remained largely shut until May 19 –- saw more losses.

In the early days of the reopening, employment rebounded more strongly among goods producers, the data show. The goods-producing sector added 165,000 jobs versus 125,000 in services. Lower-wage jobs also rebounded more, particularly in retail trade, accommodation and food services.

Women Lagging

Demographically, male employment increased more than twice as fast as that for women, consistent with the more rapid increase in the goods-producing industry. Women were among the earliest victims of the COVID-19 related job losses in March and the latest data suggest they are slower to recover as well.

“The kinds of jobs that reopened earlier tend to be more male dominated in employment and also that more women don’t know how to get back to work because they don’t know what to do with their kids because schools aren’t open,” said Armine Yalnizyan, a research fellow at the Atkinson Foundation.

Women with at least one child under age 6 showed a slower return to work than women with older children. Statistics Canada said it will continue to monitor labourmarket outcomes for men and women with children in the months to come.
Youth are still suffering heavily from the COVID-19 economic shutdown. While employment recovered by 30,000 for those aged 15-24, the cumulative job losses for this age cohort are still a whopping 843,000 from February to May.

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National unemployment rate hits new record even as economy adds jobs: StatCan – CTV News



Canada clawed back 289,600 jobs in May as provincial governments began easing public health restrictions and businesses reopened, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Still, the unemployment rate in May rose to 13.7 per cent, the highest level in more than four decades of comparable data.

The increase in the unemployment rate, which topped the previous record of 13.1 per cent set in December 1982, came as more people started looking for work.

The monthly labour force survey showed that men gained back more jobs than women in May, 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.

The increase in the number of jobs — which mirrored a similar bump in the U.S. — came after three million jobs were lost over March and April and about 2.5 million more had their hours slashed.

Statistics Canada said the number of people who worked less than half their usual hours fell by 292,000 in May.

Combined with the increase in jobs, Statistics Canada said the country recovered 10.6 per cent of employment losses and absences related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The rise in the overall unemployment to 13.7 per cent, the highest on record, shouldn’t be taken as a sign of underlying weakness, since it simply represents more out-of-work Canadians stating that they are now looking for work,” CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes wrote in a note.

“The surprisingly positive readings on employment paint a more optimistic picture of the early part of the recovery, but there’s still a long road back.”

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.

Combined with people working more hours, the province recovered nearly 30 per cent of what it lost in March and April.

Similarly, all four provinces in Atlantic Canada posted jobs gains in May. Western provinces posted gains except for Saskatchewan, which saw little overall change in employment, Statistics Canada said.

Losses continued in Ontario although at a slower pace than in March and April. The provincial unemployment rate rose to 13.6 per cent in May, up from 11.3 per cent in April.

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 a job, 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.

TD senior economist Brian DePratto noted that close to 90 per cent of those who lost work over March and April are still sitting on the sidelines.

Lower-wage workers were among the first and hardest hit during the shutdown, largely because they worked in industries like retail, restaurants or hotels that closed early in the pandemic.

Statistics Canada said lower-wage workers recovered just over one-tenth of the losses they experienced in March and April. But they continued to have a higher share of people working less than half of their usual hours.

The number of jobs men gained in May outpaced gains by women, who had seen significant job losses early on in the pandemic. Women with children under age six also saw slower job gains than those with older children.

Rebounds were also weak for students and recent immigrants.

“Women, low-paid workers, and racialized workers continue to struggle disproportionately,” said Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

“While women and youth are re-entering the job market, job offers continue to be scarce.”

A quick look at Canada’s May employment (numbers from the previous month in brackets):

  • Unemployment rate: 13.7 per cent (13.0)
  • Employment rate: 52.9 per cent (52.1)
  • Participation rate: 61.4 per cent (59.8)
  • Number unemployed: 2,619,200 (2,418,300)
  • Number working: 16,474,500 (16,184,900)
  • Youth (15-24 years) unemployment rate: 29.4 per cent (27.2)
  • Men (25 plus) unemployment rate: 11.1 per cent (10.8)
  • Women (25 plus) unemployment rate: 11.8 per cent (11.3)

Here are the jobless rates last month by province (numbers from the previous month in brackets):

  • Newfoundland and Labrador 16.3 per cent (16.0)
  • Prince Edward Island 13.9 per cent (10.8)
  • Nova Scotia 13.6 per cent (12.0)
  • New Brunswick 12.8 per cent (13.2)
  • Quebec 13.7 per cent (17.0)
  • Ontario 13.6 per cent (11.3)
  • Manitoba 11.2 per cent (11.4)
  • Saskatchewan 12.5 per cent (11.3)
  • Alberta 15.5 per cent (13.4)
  • British Columbia 13.4 per cent (11.5)

Statistics Canada also released seasonally adjusted, three-month moving average unemployment rates for major cities. It cautions, however, that the figures may fluctuate widely because they are based on small statistical samples. Here are the jobless rates last month by city (numbers from the previous month in brackets):

  • St. John’s, N.L. 10.5 per cent (9.7)
  • Halifax 10.5 per cent (8.9)
  • Moncton, N.B. 8.8 per cent (7.0)
  • Saint John, N.B. 11.1 per cent (9.5)
  • Saguenay, Que. 13.3 per cent (11.1)
  • Quebec City 11.9 per cent (9.5)
  • Sherbrooke, Que. 10.9 per cent (9.2)
  • Trois-Rivieres, Que. 13.0 per cent (9.8)
  • Montreal 14.0 per cent (10.5)
  • Gatineau, Que. 11.0 per cent (8.9)
  • Ottawa 7.7 per cent (6.3)
  • Kingston, Ont. 10.8 per cent (7.9)
  • Peterborough, Ont. 9.5 per cent (7.7)
  • Oshawa, Ont. 10.1 per cent (8.5)
  • Toronto 11.2 per cent (7.9)
  • Hamilton, Ont. 10.3 per cent (7.5)
  • St. Catharines-Niagara, Ont. 12.6 per cent (9.9)
  • Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo, Ont. 10.3 per cent (7.8)
  • Brantford, Ont. 11.3 per cent (9.4)
  • Guelph, Ont. 12.9 per cent (8.6)
  • London, Ont. 11.7 per cent (8.9)
  • Windsor, Ont. 16.7 per cent (12.9)
  • Barrie, Ont. 11.6 per cent (9.1)
  • Greater Sudbury, Ont. 8.4 per cent (6.8)
  • Thunder Bay, Ont. 10.4 per cent (8.3)
  • Winnipeg 10.3 per cent (7.7)
  • Regina 10.6 per cent (8.6)
  • Saskatoon 12.4 per cent (9.8)
  • Calgary 13.4 per cent (10.8)
  • Edmonton 13.6 per cent (10.0)
  • Kelowna, B.C. 9.6 per cent (8.1)
  • Abbotsford-Mission, B.C. 7.5 per cent (5.9)
  • Vancouver 10.7 per cent (7.5)
  • Victoria 10.1 per cent (7.2)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2020

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