Workers board up a luxury store in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, March 26, 2020. Businesses have been forced closed by the city and the province due to the COVID-19 outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

COVID-19: A look at how layoffs turned permanent in past Canadian recessions

Statistics Canada report finds nearly half of layoffs in past recessions became permanent

While the impact of COVID-19 on Canadian employment have begun to emerge, the longterm effects still remain unknown, Statistics Canada noted in a Wednesday (June 10) report that compared 2020 job losses to those in prior downturns.

The agency said that on average, 12.4 per cent of Canadian workers between the ages of 15 and 64 have been laid off each month since February, compared to about 2.5 to 2.5 per cent in the first two months during previous economic crises.

However, layoffs in all economic downturns cited in Statistics Canada’s report – 1981-1982, 1990-1992 and 2008-2009 – hit younger workers worse than older ones. This year, 25.1 per cent of workers aged 15 to 24 lost their jobs, compared to 10.7 per cent of those aged 25 to 44 and 9.9 per cent o those 45 to 64 years of age.

Having a bachelor’s degree or higher lead to a reduction in how likely a worker is to be laid off. This year, 15.1 per cent of workers without a degree were laid off, compared to 7.2 per cent of those with a degree.

The amount of time at the job mattered too, with 8.2 per cent those working more than five years with the same employer getting laid off, compared to 17.7 per cent for people working less than two years.

What isn’t know, the agency said, is how many of the COVID-related layoffs will be permanent. In all three previous recessions studied, between 44.6 per cent and 46.4 per cent of laid off workers lost their jobs permanently.

Statistics Canada found that some workers who were permanently laid off, even if they later found other jobs, saw a sharp decrease in later earnings. Looking at permanently laid off workers between the late 1970s and the early 2010s, at least one-fifth saw their earnings drop by 25 per cent even five years after their initial job loss.

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