Employment in Canada fell by 200,000 and the unemployment rate rose 0.5 percentage points to 6.5% in January, according to Statistics Canada.
With the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and more stringent public health measures in place, capacity limits or closures have been reintroduced at retail stores and high-touch establishments such as restaurants. , bars, music venues and gymnasiums, Statistics Canada said in a report released late last week.
Employment declines in January were led by Ontario and Quebec, with accommodation and food services the hardest hit industry.
Overall employment fell by 146,000 (-1.9%) in Ontario in January. Of all the other provinces, Prince Edward Island posted the largest proportional decline (-3.5%; -2,900), followed by Newfoundland and Labrador (-1.7%; -3,900), Quebec (-1.4%; -63,000) and New Brunswick (-0.9%; -3,100). In contrast, the number of people working in Saskatchewan (+0.7%; +3,900) increased. There was little change in Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Manitoba.
Young and middle-aged women, who are more likely than other demographic groups to work in industries affected by the public health measures put in place in January, have suffered the greatest impacts.
Young people experienced declines in part-time and full-time work.
Employment declined among core-aged women aged 25 to 54, all in part-time work.
Statistics Canada said that the entire decline in employment was among private sector employees.
Meanwhile, last month the unemployment rate saw its first increase since April 2021. The total number of unemployed rose by 106,000, or 8.6%, to 1.34 million, Statistics Canada said.
Above all, the youth unemployment rate increased by 2.5 percentage points to reach 13.6%.
Women aged 25 to 54 also saw their unemployment rate of 5.3% increase by 0.6 percentage points.
According to the StatCan report, a record proportion of employees have been absent from work due to illness or disability.
Absences from work due to illness or disability, that is, for any short- or long-term health-related reason, tend to follow a seasonal pattern and typically peak in the winter. However, as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spread across the country, sickness and disability absences hit record highs in January.
Specifically, 1 in 10 (10.0%) employees were absent from work for all or part of the reference week in January due to illness or disability, about one-third of more than the average observed in January from 2017 to 2019 (7.3%). Prior to January 2022, the highest level of sickness or disability absence was 8.1% in March 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (unadjusted data).
Among the largest visible minority groups in Canada, Canadians of Filipino origin, who are more likely to work in health care and social assistance, were the most likely to be absent from work due to illness or disability in January 2022 (13.1%). The proportion among South Asian (9.3%) and Black (10.5%) Canadians was closer to that observed among non-visible minorities and Aboriginal people (9.9%) ), while it was lower among Canadians of Chinese origin (7.0%).