January data from the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH) and the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey (JVWS) are now available. The ongoing and additional public health measures put in place in many provinces in late December were maintained throughout the month of January.

Payroll employment falls in January
Payroll employment fell by 134,500 (-0.8%) in January, following an increase of 48,000 (+0.3%) in December. The largest declines were in Ontario (-66,100; -1.1%) and Quebec (-43,700; -1.2%). Nationally, losses were driven by sectors affected by tightened public health measures, including retail trade, accommodation and food services, and arts, entertainment and recreation. January Labour Force Survey (LFS) results included a drop in employment of 213,000, driven by losses in the Quebec and Ontario retail trade sectors (not seasonally adjusted).

The total number of payroll employees in January was 1.2 million (-7.0%) lower than in February 2020.

Average weekly earnings up in January
Average weekly earnings were $1,135 in January, up 1.8% compared with December. On a year-over-year basis, earnings grew 8.3%, as job losses since February 2020 have been concentrated among hourly paid—and largely lower-paid—employees. In January, the number of hourly paid employees was 10.0% below its pre-COVID level, compared with a gap of 3.2% for salaried employees.

Total hours worked decline and average weekly hours worked rise
Total hours worked fell 0.5% in January and were 5.2% below their pre-COVID February leve. Average hours worked per week rose 0.6% (+0.2 hours) in January to 33.9 hours. In February 2020, payroll employees worked an average of 33.0 hours per week.

Employment falls in four sectors directly affected by tighter public health measures
Payroll employment in retail trade fell by 65,900 (-3.4%) in January, notably in Ontario and Quebec where tighter public health measures were put in place in late December. January SEPH results showed that declines were spread across most subsectors, led by clothing and clothing accessories stores (-34,500; -19.0%), the hardest hit subsector within retail trade since the start of the pandemic. In contrast, employment increased in food and beverage stores (+10,100; +1.9%) in January. Core retail sales—which exclude gasoline stations and motor vehicle and parts dealers—fell for the second consecutive month (-1.4%) in January, because of lower sales at non-essential retailers. Year over year, average weekly earnings in the sector increased 4.0% to $650.

Payroll employment in accommodation and food services declined for the third consecutive month, down by 44,000 (-4.7%) in January. In arts, entertainment and recreation, employment fell by 29,500 (-13.6%) in January, with the largest decreases in other amusement and recreation industries—which include recreational, sports and fitness centres—and gambling industries.

According to data from the Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, nearly one-quarter of businesses in accommodation and food services (24.9%), and arts, entertainment and recreation (23.3%) reported that they could continue to operate at their current level of revenue and expenditures for less than 12 months before having to consider closure or bankruptcy, a larger proportion than the average across all businesses (10.1%).

In the “other services” sector, employment decreased by 18,400 (-3.8%), mainly in the personal care services industry, including hair care and esthetic services. According to LFS data, about 9 in 10 employees in personal care services in 2020 were women.

Payroll employment gains in construction led by Quebec and Ontario
Payroll employment in construction rose by 24,800 (+2.4%) in January, driven by increases in Quebec (+14,700; +7.2%) and Ontario (+7,100; +2.0%). Employment gains in January were largest among specialty trade contractors (+17,300; +2.8%) and in construction of buildings (+8,900; +3.6%).

Employment in professional, scientific and technical services surpasses pre-pandemic level in January
Payroll employment increased in professional, scientific and technical services in January (+16,300; +1.7%), surpassing its pre-pandemic level for the first time. Employment in scientific research and development services was the furthest above its pre-pandemic level (+6.0%), followed by computer systems design and related services (+5.0%), while advertising, public relations, and related services was the furthest below its February level (-11.4%). Recovery in this sector could be due to the fact that 84% of jobs in this sector can be performed from home.

February SEPH data will be released on April 29.

Source: Statistics Canada