Canada lost 213,000 jobs in January, pushing the unemployment rate up by 0.6 percent to 9.4 percent—the highest level since last August, Statistics Canada reports.
The number of people who are considered long-term unemployed is at a record high of 512,000.
The new job numbers wipe out gains as the economy reopened in the fall, with COVID-19 lockdown measures hitting part-time workers the hardest. The losses are particularly concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, which entered strict lockdowns in December.
Also worrisome is the trend of people in Canada who have stopped looking for new jobs due to the bleak employment situation.
“Confronted by changing labour market conditions, different groups of workers are faced with deciding whether to stay in the labour market or withdraw until conditions improve,” StatsCan said.
Compared with February of last year, jobs were down by 858,000 in January and COVID-related absences from work were up 529,000.
For Canadians who worked at least half their usual hours, the number of people working from home went up by nearly 700,000 to 5.4 million in January.
That is higher than the number of people working from home during the first wave last April—5.1 million.
Statistics Canada says the biggest losses were in Ontario and Quebec—251,000. Those jobs were mostly part-time, particularly in Ontario where 153,000 part-time jobs were lost.
In Ontario, overall employment fell by 154,000 (-2.1 percent) in January and the unemployment rate rose 0.6 percentage points to 10.2 percent, driven partially by people in temporary layoff.
Nationally, part-time work was down 435,000 (-12.2 percent) compared with February 2020, and full-time work dropped by 423,000 jobs (-2.7 percent).
The loss in part-time jobs nationwide hit youth aged 15 to 24 (-114,000; -10.2 percent) and women age of 25 to 54 (-103,000; -10.4 percent) particularly hard.
The food services sector took the biggest hit (-8.2 percent) followed by retail trade (-7.4 percent), and information, culture and recreation (-2.4 percent).
Professional, scientific, and technical services, as well as finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing have fully recovered to pre-COVID employment levels, StatsCan reports. These fields have a high amount of full-time workers.
All the January losses were in the private sector. Self-employment is holding steady and public sector employment has increased.
Southeast Asian Canadians had the highest unemployment rate in January at 20.1 percent, followed by Latin American Canadians at 16.6 percent, and Black Canadians at 16.4 percent.
StatsCan says the number of Black Canadians who lost work in January was 42,000 or a 5.5 percentage point drop. More than three-quarters of the those job losses were in Quebec and Ontario.
The unemployment rate among Chinese Canadians rose by two percent to 10.8 percent and also went up slowly—1.7 percent—among Canadians who are neither Indigenous nor part of a group designated as a visible minority to 8.9 percent.
Women ages 25 to 54 experienced greater job losses in January than men in the same age range.
Overall, employment was down 107,000 (-0.9 percent) among people aged 25 to 54 in January, but the drop was more than twice as large among women (-73,000; -1.3 percent) than men (-33,500; -0.5 percent). Most of the jobs women lost were part-time (103,000, -10.4 percent).
“Following losses in the month, employment for core-aged women was 3.2 percent lower than its pre-COVID February 2020 level, while employment for core-aged men was 2.7 percent lower,” StatsCan said.
The unemployment rate for core-aged women was up 1.1 percentage points in January to 7.8 percent, as the number of unemployed was up 68,000 (+16.4 percent). That increase was split evenly between those on temporary layoff and those looking for work.
The unemployment rate for men held steady from the previous month at 7.5 percent.
The participation rate was down for men and women 25 to 54, but is similar to pre-pandemic levels for both men (90.9 percent) and women (83.6 percent).
Last spring, the economic shutdown during the first wave left three million people unemployed in Canada and another 2.5 million were absent from their jobs due to COVID-19.