December was brutal month for Niagara’s tourism, retail industries

Home NWPB in the NewsDecember was brutal month for Niagara’s tourism, retail industries
Photo credit: retrieved from original article.

Article By: Gord Howard
St. Catharines Standard
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So much for a pre-Christmas job-creation bump.

Instead of adding retail jobs in the rush up to Dec. 25 like most years, Niagara actually lost 500 retail and wholesale jobs between November and December.

And with Niagara and all of Ontario in lockdown since Boxing Day, the forecast for January doesn’t look like a happy start to the new year.

“(The 500 jobs) is not huge, but definitely unexpected considering we were looking at about 1,500 or so jobs gained in November 2019 to December 2019,” said Adam Durrant, operations and research manager for the Niagara Workforce Planning Board.

Monthly employment survey results, released Friday by Statistics Canada, contained mostly bad news for Niagara.

While the unemployment rate in most regions continued to go down, Niagara’s grew to 8.7 per cent from 6.7 in November.

And accommodations and food services — the biggest player in Niagara’s tourism industry — lost about 2,200 jobs between November and mid-December, when the survey was conducted.

“So that’s all the employment gains we enjoyed over the fall, basically given back in one month’s worth of data,” said Durrant.

“We wouldn’t see that in any other year.”

The survey was done around the second week of December, before lockdown started. Since Dec. 26, restaurants have been restricted to providing takeout and delivery service only, and many retailers can only provide curbside service with no shoppers allowed inside.

On Friday, Premier Doug Ford said an even stricter lockdown might be coming to curb COVID’s spread.

On the positive side, Niagara did gain about 1,100 jobs in manufacturing and 300 in construction last month.

Based on historical trends and other data, Durrant said Niagara is likely looking at a slow recovery that should be helped if COVID-19 vaccines become widely available around mid-year as expected.

“That’s what the national-level trends are calling for, about six months of very challenging times,” he said.

“Then once we start getting into the third and fourth quarters of 2021, the latest I read from RBC Economics was that that’s … when we will start to see sustained recovery.”

Employment-wise, the pandemic has been harder on women.

Their job losses have been about two and a half times more than men’s, and they typically hold about 60 per cent of the jobs in tourism which has struggled badly.

Employment in health care has held steady, Durrant said, and jobs there are mostly held by women – “but we know that comes with a toll for people to work in that environment” during the pandemic.

Overall in Niagara there are still about 13,000 fewer people with full-time employment than there were in December 2019, but roughly 3,200 more that hold part-time jobs.

“That’s pretty challenging” for Niagara’s economy, Durrant said.

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