ANALYSIS: New jobless numbers suggest third-wave’s toll looms

The full economic impact caused by the third wave of COVID-19 is yet to arrive in London, but it’s coming, observers say.

The London area’s unemployment rate went up in April for the second month in a row, despite the addition of 3,600 new jobs last month, figures released Friday by Statistics Canada show.

The region’s jobless rate hit 8.2 per cent in April, up from March’s seven per cent.

The increase is the result of a jump in the number of people looking for jobs as the London region saw its labour force — both people working and looking for work — jump by about 7,700 people.

But despite the job additions — the 10th consecutive month of gains — the toll of the latest stay-at-home order isn’t clear yet, given Statistics Canada reports municipal figures using a three-month moving average.

“The next couple of months we expect to see the numbers weaken,” said Mike Moffatt, an assistant professor at the Ivey business school at Western University.

He said the impact will be less severe than the one seen during the first lockdown, which caused more than 30,000 to be lost during last year’s spring months and all of which have been recouped.

Since the end of the first lockdown, London’s economy, bolstered in part by a booming housing market, has managed “to weather the storm better than most places in Canada,” Moffatt said.

“A lot of London jobs, whether it be the education sector or the tech sector or so on, haven’t been as affected by  the pandemic,” he said.

“Obviously, our tourism and food service sector got hurt but, relative to other cities like Toronto, they make up a smaller portion of our economy.”

The toll of the third wave of virus cases was more visible in Ontario, which lost about 153,000 positions in April, Statistics Canada said.

“Employment decreased in Ontario . . . in April, coinciding with the implementation of more stringent public health measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 and its variants,” the federal agency said.

Ontario’s latest lockdown came into effect on April 8 and is expected to last until at least May 20.

That resulted in the province’s unemployment rate jumping in April to nine per cent from March’s 7.5 per cent.

Nationally, the jobless rate also went up in April, rising to 8.1 per cent from 7.5 per cent the month before after the country shed about 207,000 positions last month.

“Anytime you lose 200,000 jobs, it’s a concern, but it’s about what we expected given the third wave,” Moffatt said.

“They’re probably not all going to come back — there’s going to be lasting damage from the pandemic — but a lot of what we see this month, it’s temporary.”

Statistics Canada also said under-employment continues to be an issue for the economy, with the agency reporting increases in the number of people working fewer hours than usual and people on temporary layoff.

Moffatt agreed, adding that’s also a reality in the London figures — which include St. Thomas, Strathroy and portions of Elgin and Middlesex counties — and especially for younger people, who are entering a market with fewer options.

“We shouldn’t just look at the job numbers,” he said. “We also have to consider how many hours people are working, how much they are getting paid.”

London’s unemployment rate – Statistics Canada

April 2021: 8.2 per cent

March 2021: 7 per cent

February 2021: 6.9 per cent

January 2021: 7.7

December 2020: 7.7

November 2020: 8.4

Unemployment rate – April (March) – Statistics Canada 

London: 8.2 per cent (7 per cent) Ontario: 9 per cent (7.5 per cent) Canada: 8.1 per cent (7.5 per cent)

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