Updated: Apr 19
The ballooning unemployment rate among Canadians suggests that the job market in Canada is already contracting under the economic pressure of the coronavirus outbreak. With nearly one million jobless claims filed by the end of March 2020 (roughly half of which were recorded during the last weekend of the month), the Canadian job market demonstrated a significant, rapid reversal in its recently celebrated expansion.
Finding a Job is Difficult But Not Impossible
"The truth is, jobs will be harder to find amidst this coronavirus pandemic," says Nan Mu, co-founder of Alba. "Quality candidates, however, will stand out during these tough times." In the month of March, Alba secured job placements for several candidates in various fields: accounting, tech, and marketing.
"We are securing more interviews than usual," says Ivy Chen, a leading job search consultant in Vancouver. "On the other hand, companies are taking their time with the hiring process. And for good reason since we are in very uncertain times for domestic and international commerce."
Canada More Affected By the Coronavirus Than the U.S.
Due to Canada’s notably swifter response to the coronavirus outbreak, the job market in Canada appears to be more shocked by the pandemic than the neighboring U.S. market. That said, this rapid and effective control of the virus (should it work) should enable the Canadian economy and the Canadian job market to enjoy market recovery starting sooner, and moving more quickly, than other countries with slower and less successful public health interventions.
Non-Essential Business Closures and Isolation Mandates Impacting Jobs in Canada
Speaking on the final Friday in March (when only about 500,000 jobless claims had been filed), both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and The Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development’s office noted that both the scope and the speed of this job loss are without precedent in the history of the Canadian job market. Even at that time (before jobless claims nearly doubled over the following weekend), the number of jobless claims was more than twenty times greater than it was the previous year.
Justifiably, economists are taking the jobless claims figure (and its rapid upward trend) as an indication to underscore just how quickly economic activity ground to a halt following the announcement of non-essential business closures and other isolation orders. Moreover, they are taking this figure to mean there is more bad news on the horizon for Canadian job seekers and those occupying non-recession-proof jobs.
Economists Projecting a Recession and Unstable Job Market in Canada
Based on the current financial and job market data, economists are predicting a probable economic recession, if not a depression, in Canada in 2020.
More specifically, the economy is expected to decline by 2.5% and 0.8% in the second and third quarters of the year. Should this forecasting prove even partially accurate, a recession — defined as a significant decline in economic activity that is sustained for a period of several months — seems exceedingly likely. This is especially true given public health experts’ predictions regarding the anticipated (months-long) duration of the outbreak.
How Coronavirus Will Affect the Job Market for Job-Seekers: Fewer Job Search Opportunities and More Competition
In the case of either a recession or depression, jobs tend to disappear. Moreover, few industries can claim significant job security for workers (so-called “recession-proof” job markets are largely limited to the medical industry and law enforcement/legal-adjacent fields).
Additionally, young people set to graduate into potential recession conditions can expect little long term job security, low job mobility, and other consequences. Notably, students entering the job market during a recession draw lower salaries for up to a decade. This trend is the likely result of limited job search opportunities forcing new-to-market workers into lower-paying positions with limited job mobility within fields they are dispassionate about working in.
Given these figures, the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the Canadian job market will likely be felt for years to come. Yet we can continue to hope that economists’ early models of rapid recovery correlated with rapid control of the virus are accurate.