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Service industry hit hardest again by job losses, Alberta study finds

WATCH ABOVE: Alberta is expected to take another hit on the job front in May with the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions. A study shows a third wave impact of up to 65,000 job losses. But as Lisa MacGregor reports, it could be a short term cost this time around. – May 17, 2021

A study by Alberta Central projects that the province will take another hit on the job front in May, with the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions.

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The study states that employment decreased in Alberta by 12,600 in April, a level of employment almost 50,000 — or two per cent — below pre-pandemic level. It projects that Alberta could see 20,000 to 30,000 job losses specifically in food and accommodation service in May 2021 due to the new restrictions. Overall job losses could reach 65,000, the study estimates.

READ MORE: Schools go online as Alberta adds more COVID-19 restrictions for 3 weeks

It’s not a big surprise considering some businesses have been forced to close because of public health measures put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, but it’s another dagger to the same industry of service workers.

“It is worrying because we’re one year in, it’s again the same categories of workers that have been hit last year that will be hit again this time,” said Charles St-Arnaud, chief economist for Alberta Central.

“Do they have the financial strength to go through another month or two without income?”

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St-Arnaud believes the projected job losses will be a short-term cost this time around.

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“It’s kind of a necessary cost in the short term,” St-Arnaud said. “It’s really looking at that end goal of we’ll finally get to a sustainable recovery and hopefully a more normal life.”

READ MORE: Alberta’s unemployment among still highest in Canada as Calgary, Edmonton job losses climb

The dip in jobs isn’t as bad as the start of the pandemic but when things open back up, St-Arnaud said the key will be to focus on the industries that are struggling.

“The non-client-facing sectors are growing, the level of employment in those sectors is often above where they were pre-pandemic, yet you look at the food and service industry, you’re still working with people with probably 30 per cent less workers,” St-Arnaud said.

Filistix restaurant in Edmonton isn’t feeling the impact in the third wave as much as the first two. Overall, it has felt like one long wave for co-owner Ariel del Rosario.

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“With the constant opening and closing and implementation of restrictions and lifting of restrictions, it’s almost like a broken record,” del Rosario said.

“Will we be able to rehire some of the staff that we had to lay off? I’m not so sure.

“Because we did find some deficiencies, that allowed us to survive though these last 12-14 months.”

Del Rosario is being cautiously optimistic about when Alberta will lift restrictions.

“There’s definitely going to be some sort of renaissance I think within the food and restaurant industry,” del Rosario said. “We’re just so close, we’re so close.”

St-Arnaud and the Alberta Central study project the impact of this third wave to be temporary and if vaccinations continue at the current rate, it will “allow for a gradual removal of the restrictions, setting the stage for a sustainable recovery.”


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