This article, written by Loren Falkenberg, University of Calgary and Jillian Walsh, University of York, originally appeared on The Conversation and has been republished here with permission:
What does a post-pandemic economy look like? Health researchers are indicating that managing this virus will be a long-term game. That means COVID-19 will impact the economy for months, maybe years, but reopening businesses cannot wait until the virus is completely eradicated.
Estimated lost wages from the locked-down Canadian economy range between $3 billion to $6 billion per month. Many Canadians are worrying about more than infection; concerns about affording rent and everyday necessities are pervasive. Restarting businesses is not only important for the social well-being of Canadians but also for restoring investor confidence in the market and generating much-needed tax revenue.
Germany has just started to make small steps by reopening small shops. Understanding when and how to reopen businesses may be the most challenging task of this pandemic. Reopening too soon risks a second wave of infections and a far greater negative economic impact.
However, not allowing companies to promptly reopen will lead to a deep recession and is already fuelling societal unrest. Successfully re-establishing businesses in a COVID-19 economy requires government, health-care and business leaders working together to implement a phased return to employment.
The first phase is the one in which we now find ourselves: working from home or unemployed. Many professional and business-to-business companies have learned to facilitate working from home using web-based technology over the past few weeks.
This has been critical in reducing COVID-19 transmission, but it’s not sustainable in the long term. So what’s next?
Phase 2: Resuming small-scale operations
The next phase is a suppression approach involving reopening and supporting businesses where virus transmission can be easily controlled.
Workplaces that have adequate space for physical distancing, easy access to soap and water and the ability for continuous cleaning of all public areas should be encouraged to reopen. These businesses can learn from those that remained open during the lockdown.
This might require that businesses operate with reduced hours until they can assure regular and thorough cleaning of their workplaces.
In a pandemic, short-term age discrimination may also be justified. Employers should be encouraged to rehire younger people after they’ve been tested, while governments continue to provide financial support to older workers and those with chronic health conditions, since younger people are less likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 infection.
Success in this early phase is dependent on rapid testing of employees displaying symptoms, including a potential self-testing kit and the quick return of results. Employers must keep reminding employees to stay home if they are not feeling well, while governments must continue to provide easy and quick access to insurance for lost wages.
In the meantime, employees have a responsibility to limit their social exposure when they’re not at work. The goal must be to keep the transmission rate a low as possible.
Phase 3: Expanding to social events
The next phase should begin within a month of lowering the infection rate to acceptable levels, a number that still hasn’t been established. There is ongoing development of models of transmission in different-sized and types of groups, and as more is learned on how to ensure low infection rates, businesses and organizations can expand operations carefully.
This could mean allowing more customers into stores and restaurants at one time, allowing small social gatherings and reopening some education and recreation facilities. Professional sports leagues could resume, either with relatively few or no spectators. Whatever the expansion looks like, maintenance of new cleaning and social and physical distancing practices needs to be ensured.
Phase 4: Domestic tourism
The final phase should focus on rebuilding domestic tourism and Canada’s reputation as a safe country for its citizens to explore.
Airlines and hotels should have appropriate cleaning and hygiene practices ready to go. Reopening the border could be considered for those countries that have also controlled transmission of the virus.
During this phased-in approach, governments need to go beyond providing financial stimulus packages. Businesses also need to be supported in training workers on safety and sanitation precautions, and must facilitate the development of technologies that monitor workplace social distancing and tracking of interactions that could lead to virus transmission.
Governments and health-care experts must also continually monitor and provide updates on transmission rates. Success is dependent on everyone being informed.
Public trust in business is critical. Canadians have effectively responded to this pandemic. To ensure ongoing co-operation, they need to know there’s plan for getting people back to work.
COVID-19 will not be the last health threat to the Canadian economy. Our focus needs to shift from controlling risks through economic shutdowns to managing health-related threats in the workplace. Otherwise disastrous economic downturns will continue.
The response to COVID-19, in fact, should become a learning opportunity on how to develop more illness-proof economies.
Edited by Harry Miller
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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