Quebec economy decimated during COVID-19 crisis, StatCan figures indicate

Click to play video: 'Quebec economy hard hit by COVID-19 crisis' Quebec economy hard hit by COVID-19 crisis
WATCH: Quebecers have been in social isolation for almost two months now and to break up the monotony, one Montreal West family has been hosting themed dinner parties -- for themselves. Global's Amanda Jelowicki has the story – May 8, 2020

Jenny Goss has no idea when her hair salon Jean John can reopen.

The salon, located in the Montreal suburb of Westmount, first opened its doors 40 years ago and has a loyal clientele. When the coronavirus hit, Goss had to lay off 16 staff members, a move she said was heartbreaking.

“It was very hard to lay everybody off. It was hard because we don’t know when we are going to reopen,” Goss said. “We have been together a long time, we are like family.”

Goss is preparing her salon for the eventual day she can reopen. She’s installing Plexiglas barriers between salon chairs, and will have disinfectant everywhere,

“We will have our protective face masks, face shields, we will have disposable capes, we will be dressed like your doctors for surgery,” she said.

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READ MORE: Montreal-area business owners anxious to get back to work

But Goss admits everyone is so nervous about what’s next.

“It’s very hard, it’s very uncertain. We are only going to be able to do half of what we normally do, if even that. We will have to take salary cuts and prices will have to go up.”

New unemployment numbers confirm the coronavirus pandemic has decimated Quebec’s economy, sowing uncertainty and fear.

New Statistics Canada figures indicate Quebec now has its highest April unemployment rate ⁠— at 17 per cent ⁠— since 1976, when StatCan started tracking the data.

The province lost an estimated 821,000 jobs in April, and has the highest unemployment rate of all Canadian provinces.

READ MORE: Montreal business community split on decision to delay reopening of non-essential stores

The small and the big are suffering ⁠— Aldo Shoes just filed for creditor protection.

And 80 per cent of Quebec’s small businesses call the situation critical, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

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“You still have bills to pay but you have no revenue, it’s basic mathematics,” said Francois Vincent, a vice-president of the CFIB. “It’s very difficult for them to see the light.”

The CFIB applauds Montreal’s move to offer a $5 million lifeline to help businesses. But Vincent says with the official reopening of Montreal businesses delayed by two weeks, the government should allow curbside pickups, like other Canadian provinces do.

READ MORE: Montreal announces $5M grant to help local, cultural and social economy businesses

It would mean customers could order over the phone with local businesses, and then go to the store to pick them up.

“Two weeks is an eternity, so by allowing them to connect with their customers, it will allow them to have some revenue,” Vincent said. “If customers think to shop small and local, we can help to save a lot of small businesses.”

Those in the restaurant business worry the future looks especially bleak.

“The restaurant industry already has fine profit margins, so this is definitely a punch to the gut,” said Josh Crowe, the chef and owner of the Monkland Tavern.

The Monkland Tavern will soon start offering take out options. It’s counting on its loyal clientele for its survival.

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But  Crowe is nervous for others in his industry.

“I don’t think it will make sense for some restaurants to continue unfortunately,” he said. “That is the reality right now. Those slim margins we will definitely see a lot of closures happening after this.”

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