Employment fell by 207,000 in April as lockdown measures tightened in several regions of the country. Losses in April reflected declines in both full-time and part-time work. Lower employment in Ontario accounted for nearly three quarters of the headline decrease, while one half of headline losses reflected lower employment among 15- to 24-year-olds.

Employment levels in several high-contact service industries in recent months have moved in parallel with changes in the intensity of public health measures. Employment in accommodation and food services fell 59,000 in April, largely as a result of losses in Ontario and British Columbia, where bans on indoor dining were re-introduced in late March and early April. The number of people working in retail trade fell by 84,000, as stricter restrictions on the operations of non-essential stores were implemented in Ontario, Alberta and several regions of Quebec.

With April’s headline decrease, net employment losses since the onset of the pandemic rose to 503,000, more than half of which reflect losses among young workers. Employment among young women in April was 164,000 below pre-pandemic levels, while employment among young men was 99,000 below levels reported in February 2020. More than two-thirds of net employment losses since the onset of the pandemic were in accommodation and food services.

Canada’s unemployment rate increased to 8.1% in April. Among 15- to 24-year-olds, the unemployment rate rose to 16.1%. The youth unemployment rate stood at 10.4% prior to the onset of the pandemic.

The labour underutilization rate—which reflects the number of people who are either unemployed, who want a job but did not look for one, or who are employed but worked less than half of their usual hours—rose 2.3% points to 17.0% in April.

The number of Canadians working from home grew by 100,000 in April to 5.1 million. The number of Canadians adapting to COVID-19 by working from home remains above 3 million.

On May 4th, the agency released March’s merchandise trade report. Trade activity strengthened to end the quarter, led by a sizable, broad-based increase in imports. At $102.4 billion, total merchandise trade in March was at its highest level since May 2019, marking the first time since the onset of the pandemic that both monthly exports and imports were above pre-COVID levels.

Following back-to-back surpluses, Canada’s merchandise trade balance returned to a deficit position in March (-$1.1 billion). Over one half of the change in the trade balance reflected a smaller surplus in energy products.

Headline exports edged up 0.3%, led by higher shipments of motor vehicles and parts and metal ores. Non-energy exports rose to $41.2 billion, the third highest level on record. While lower exports of energy products moderated the headline increase, total merchandise exports, at $50.6 billion, were 5.9% above pre-COVID levels.

Headline imports rose 5.5% in February, led by higher shipments of energy products and motor vehicles and parts. Higher imports of consumer products also supported the headline increase. Total merchandise imports, at $51.8 billion, were 2.9% above pre-COVID levels.

Following three consecutive declines, imports of medical and protective goods, measured on a customs basis, rose 22.6% to $3.2 billion in March, led by higher imports of medical equipment and products and diagnostic products. Imports of “vaccines for human medicine other than for influenza,” the category that includes the COVID‑19 vaccines, rose 77.1% to a record $189 million in March. Further increases are anticipated in the months ahead.

March data on trade in services were also released on May 4th. Canada’s total international trade in services edged higher in March, supported by higher receipts and payments for commercial services. Despite the gain, total trade in services remained one-quarter below pre-COVID levels. Most of the decline since the onset of the pandemic reflects lower receipts and payments for travel services.

Building permits data for March were also released on May 4th. Permits in March posted their third consecutive monthly record, reflecting a booming residential sector. 

Source: Statistics Canada