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Job Loss Disaster Slams Low-Wage, Young Workers

Job Loss Disaster Slams Low-Wage, Young Workers

April numbers show three million lost jobs, while another 2.5 million people had their hours cut in half.

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‘Half of all those earning $14 an hour or less have been laid off or have lost all their hours.’ Photo by Joshua Berson.

We thought the March jobless numbers were bad, but it is almost a good news story compared to what we saw Friday in the April figures.

The unprecedented closure of major sections of Canada’s economy in mid-March is finally being reflected in the jobless numbers. Of course, without those closures we would be in a historic health crisis with emergency rooms overflowing and our health system shutting down, as we saw elsewhere.

In that sense, this shutdown was exactly the right thing to do. I look at these unprecedented joblessness numbers and think: this is how we protected many workers from contracting the virus — though they sacrificed their income.

The official unemployment rate for April is 13 per cent. This is a historic high. There was a single month, December 1982, when unemployment was slightly higher at 13.1 per cent. But after that one month you’d have to go back to May 1936 at the end of the Great Depression to see anything similar. Put another way all jobs created since October 2005, 15 years ago, have been lost by April 2020. While the March data was collected as the shutdown was in progress during the third week of March, the April figures show the full impact of a month’s worth of pandemic lockdown.

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There have been few precedents for April’s dramatic jump in the unemployment rate. Source: Statistics Canada.

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