Low-wage earners hit hardest by pandemic job market

Employment counsellor David McKay says he is encountered the complete suite of feelings from his shoppers at a Toronto-area employment centre throughout the pandemic. While some have been optimistic about discovering new alternatives, he is predominantly encountered frustration.

“You’re seeing anxiety, you’re seeing people who are feeling isolated, lack of social resources to deal with things,” mentioned McKay, who’s been with the Durham Region Unemployed Help Centre for almost 16 years. 

“I’ve seen a couple of people who are students who are coming to the end of their college diplomas or their university degrees and saying, ‘I don’t know whether there’s jobs in the thing I’ve been training for in the last two years, what am I going to do about it?'”

The pandemic is hitting lower-wage jobs the toughest. According to a latest report revealed by CIBC Economics, all of the roles misplaced within the nation final yr on account of the COVID-19 pandemic earned $27.81 an hour or much less. The common hourly wage price for full- and part-time staff in 2020 was round $31 an hour, in keeping with Statistics Canada.

The January report, written by CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal, used Statistics Canada information on the pandemic’s influence on below-average wages. It didn’t embrace the precise variety of jobs misplaced to the pandemic final yr; the nation misplaced 213,000 jobs in complete in January, in keeping with Statistics Canada, and 63,000 in December however gained 62,000 in November. 

The jobs misplaced in January had been fully part-time and significantly hit the retail sectors in Ontario and Quebec, which each locked all the way down to fight the unfold of the virus.

The CIBC report famous that the statistics are just like recessions like that of the 2008-09 monetary disaster, with one stark distinction.

Higher-income Canadians, these incomes $27.82 or extra per hour, “have experienced net job gains during the current crisis — an anomaly during a recession,” Tal wrote.

“So the surprise here is that, not only did high-wage earners not experience job loss, but in fact they have gained almost 350,000 jobs over the past year.”

The pandemic is “a service-oriented crisis and that sector is populated by low-paying jobs,” Tal mentioned. 

“This is a very abnormal and asymmetrical crisis.”

WATCH | COVID-19’s unequal financial recession:

More than one million Canadians are nonetheless under- or unemployed on account of COVID-19, however the disaster additionally allowed others, who had been simply in a position to work at home, save extra money. 2:34

Anxiety over returning to work

McKay mentioned he and his colleagues have supported people previously within the service trade, notably retail and meals staff, amongst others. He mentioned many of the centre’s shoppers earned nearer to Ontario’s minimal wage of $14.25 per hour at their earlier jobs.

“It’s often people who don’t have their own resources who come to our agency to begin with, and so we probably see more of the people on the lower end of the economic spectrum to begin with, even before COVID factors in,” he mentioned.

“And there’s a lot of concern and anxiety about going back. Even if they go back, is it worth going back for five hours a week when they were getting 25 or 30 hours a week before?”

The centre, which has places in Oshawa and Pickering, additionally helps younger people, these with disabilities and new Canadians discover work by means of varied government applications, says govt director Maralyn Tassone.

There are additionally alternatives to retrain for various sectors, she says, significantly as truck drivers and private assist staff.

“People feel there are no jobs to be had. And that’s actually not the situation at all, because we have employers calling us and stating that they’re looking for people,” Tassone mentioned, noting that Statistics Canada itself and Amazon are each seeking to rent people within the area.

The work McKay and his colleagues do has additionally been impacted by the pandemic, significantly when connecting remotely with a few of their shoppers.

“There are certain things that you want to be able to do face-to-face, which are more difficult to do,” he mentioned. 

“The sorts of people that have been hit hardest by this are often people who have less access to technology or less access to the skill set needed to operate the technology.”

Employment counsellor David McKay mentioned he is encountered issues from people he is labored with over whether or not it is value returning to work for fewer hours because the pandemic continues. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

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