Sales at food services and drinking places fell for the fourth consecutive month in January, reflecting sharp declines in Ontario and Quebec as restaurants and customers continued to adjust to tighter containment measures.  Headline sales were down 2.8% to $4.1 billion, the lowest monthly level since May 2020. About 60% of the headline decrease reflected lower sales at full-service restaurants, with receipts at these establishments in January amounting to less than one half of pre-COVID levels. Overall sales at food services and drinking places were 37% below levels reported prior to the start of the pandemic.

Statistics Canada reported on March 22nd, that the volume of cargo carried by Canadian railways in January reached 32.6 million tonnes, up 7.7% from levels in January 2020. January’s increase marked the third straight month of year-over-year growth. Loadings of coal surged by 35.5% from levels in January 2020, while loadings of iron ore and concentrates were 13.0% higher, appearing to signal a rebound in steel production. The agency reported during the week of March 15 that January sales in the primary metals industry increased for the fourth consecutive month. Railcar loadings of many agricultural and food products remained strong; wheat loadings rose 28.6% year-over-year in January, following similar increases in November and December 2020. Energy products continued to decline year-over-year, with loadings of fuel oils and crude petroleum down 45.1% in January, after similar drops in November and December 2020.

Counts of travel between Canada and other countries in January were released on March 23rd. With another wave of the virus washing over many parts of the world, additional restrictions on international arrivals by air were announced by the federal government in January and existing restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-US border were extended into February. In January, arrivals of non-residents from the United States and other countries were down 92.3% compared with January 2020. Similarly, the number of Canadian residents returning from abroad was down 90.4% over the same period. While the number of Canadians flying home from abroad in January was down 89.9% from a year earlier, over 233,200 Canadians flew home during the month, up by over one-third from December.

Source: Statistics Canada