Manitoba’s unemployment doubles in two months amid COVID-19

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Unemployment doubled while tens of thousands of Manitobans lost their jobs in the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest numbers from Statistics Canada show. Erik Pindera reports – May 8, 2020

Unemployment doubled while tens of thousands of Manitobans lost their jobs in the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest numbers from Statistics Canada show.

Manitoba’s unemployment rate rose from 5.2 per cent in February to 6.4 per cent in March.

In April it rose further to 11.4 per cent, according to Statistics Canada figures released Friday.

That equates to about 37,000 more unemployed people in a two-month span that saw public health orders shutter much of the economy.

Meanwhile, Manitoba lost 64,200 jobs total in April.

It’s a stark number, a University of Manitoba economist said.

“I can’t say I was surprised but it’s a pretty bleak picture,” Fletcher Baragar said. “What’s just so striking is… to really see on the chart the hard reality of the numbers, just how precipitous of a drop the employment numbers were.”

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Baragar notes that’s both in Manitoba and Canada — over one million jobs were lost across the country in March alone, while nearly two million more were lost in April.

READ MORE: Canada shed 2 million jobs in April amid COVID-19: StatCan

“In terms of dropping so far, so fast, that’s unprecedented. I don’t think anything really compares with that. We’ve had recessions before, there was obviously a big depression in the 1930s, but nothing like this,” he said, noting the Great Depression saw people lose their jobs over a period of about three years, rather than less than two months.

The hardest-hit sectors were the restaurant, retail, wholesale and hotel industries, which account for about 43 per cent of the jobs lost in the past two months.

Now unemployed, 22-year-old international student Matthew McCoshen worked part-time as a bartender for the University of Manitoba, serving beer at Winnipeg Ice hockey games and catered events.

“It was basically enough to pay for my rent and groceries, and I was fortunate enough to save enough for my tuition. I was just making ends meet,” McCoshen said.

That changed quickly in mid-March when the Western Hockey League cancelled its season and restaurants around the campus shuttered.

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“Within the span of two days pretty much, that was it,” he said.

That’s left him unsure of what’s to come, with a year left in his masters of public administration joint program between the University of Winnipeg and the U of M, but an insecure financial future.

“I’m not sure how I’m going to have income in the fall, because even if restaurants are open I doubt they’re going to be hiring extra staff,” McCoshen said.

“There’s so much uncertainty. I definitely want to finish the program, but my financial security is probably a greater concern than academic security, but I really don’t want to leave Canada — if I leave the program, then my visa runs out.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: How long will pandemic-related job losses last in Canada?

Young people were particularly hard-hit while Manitoba’s economy retracted as the novel coronavirus reared into the province — 18.1 per cent fewer Manitobans aged 15-24 were employed in April 2020 compared to April the previous year, Statistics Canada figures said.

Fewer young people working has a disproportionate effect on the economy, Baragar said.

“This is a group living paycheque-to-paycheque and as a consequence of that, of the income they receive many of them will spend it right away and others they’ll save for three, four months and spend it for tuition,” the economist said.

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“Without that income, without that spending — the multiplier effects, the ripple effects through the local economy — [it’s] really going to be affected, so that’s a worrying sign.”
Click to play video: 'Unemployment during COVID-19' Unemployment during COVID-19
Unemployment during COVID-19 – Mar 25, 2020

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