Article By: Gord Howard
St. Catharines Standard
Read original at: https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/business/2021/02/05/covid-lockdown-helped-put-12100-niagarans-out-of-work-in-january.html
The experts were right — last month’s job losses due to COVID-19 restrictions were as bad as expected.
Across Niagara, 12,100 people lost their employment in January, one of the worst months since the start of the pandemic last spring.
And there were nearly 22,000 fewer people with jobs compared to the pre-pandemic days of January 2020.
“If February is another month like January, we’ll definitely be back down at what we were in the worst of the worst months,” said Adam Durrant, project manager for the Niagara Workforce Planning Board.
“The trend is absolutely not going in the right direction there.”
In its monthly report, Statistics Canada pegged Niagara’s unemployment rate at 11.6 per cent, about two points higher than December.
Niagara’s rate is also higher than the national average of 9.4 per cent, making January Canada’s worst month for job losses since August.
Across the country there were 213,000 employment losses, with Quebec and Ontario taking the biggest hits.
In Niagara, the accommodation and food sector fared worst. It lost more than 4,000 jobs, dropping to 13,700 in January from 17,900 in the weeks before Christmas.
“That’s almost a quarter of the entire industry sector,” said Durrant.
Niagara’s tourism industry has been devastated by government-ordered lockdowns and that have discouraged travel, banned indoor dining in restaurants and required people to stay home for all but essential travel.
It encompasses several sectors, the biggest being food and accommodation. In January 2020 they employed 25,900 people — nearly double the 13,700 they did last month.
“We’re absolutely seeing the impact of COVID-19 on our local accommodation and food sector,” Durrant said. “There’s a straight line between that sector and the overall vibrance of our tourism sector.”
Niagara started its vaccination program last month and over the past nearly two weeks its COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates have started to fall.
However, Durrant declined to speculate on when Niagara’s economy might improve.
Of local employment lost in January, 6,800 jobs were part-time and 5,300 were full-time.
Throughout the pandemic, loss of employment in Niagara has hit women about three times as hard as men.
They are more likely to work part-time “because of external pressures that they are having to deal with — family care, child care, education. Things like that are generally landing more on women’s shoulders than they land on men,” said Durrant.
“So if amid all that you’re also losing a part-time income stream, that has potential to be extremely devastating on someone.
“So we don’t want to under-sell the impact of part-time employment losses, they can be just as challenging as full-time employment losses.”
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