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

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New figures are painting a grim picture of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on Canadians: the economy shed nearly two million jobs in April, driving the total number of job losses since the start of the COVID-19 shutdown to over three million and the unemployment rate to 13 per cent.

“These numbers are historic,” university economics professor Miles Corak said of the Statistics Canada April labour force figures released Friday.

“We have gone, in just a couple of months, from a high-pressure, high-demand, high work economy with very low unemployment rates to the highest unemployment rates in more than two or three decades.”

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With many provinces already taking the first steps to gradually loosen public health restrictions and re-open their economies, how much longer are these historic unemployment numbers expected to persist?

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That depends on a mix of economic, consumer, public health and public policy factors, economists say.

According to Statistics Canada, temporary layoffs accounted for 97 per cent of new unemployment recorded in April — a fact Corak described as a “silver lining” because that means those people have maintained some attachment to their employer or expect to return to work.

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