Canadian youth, women hit hard by massive coronavirus-related job losses

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian youth and women were particularly hard hit by record-breaking job losses in March, since they were more likely to work in sectors that closed down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, analysts said on Thursday.

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Canada lost more than 1 million jobs in March as officials temporarily shuttered non-essential businesses and ordered people to stay home as much as possible.

People aged between 15 and 24 were hit the most, with employment in that age group falling by 15.4%. This was tied almost entirely to cuts in part-time work, Statscan said.

As a result, the employment rate for youth fell to 49.1%, the lowest on record since 1976, when the agency adopted its current model for calculating unemployment.

“The difference with this downturn is that customer-facing service roles have bore the brunt of the closures initially and those are staffed with a lot more females and younger workers,” said Stephen Brown, senior Canada economist with Capital Economics.

Employment among women aged 25 to 54 fell by 5%, more than twice the 2% decrease seen for men of the same age. Nearly half of the fall was among women working part-time.

“It likely reflects the industries they work in, rather than the fact they’re youth or women,” said Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC Capital Markets when asked about the jobs data.

“We had a lot of job losses in sectors like recreation, hospitality, and we didn’t see the job losses yet in sectors like resources. So some of the more male-dominated sectors that have fewer young workers just didn’t get hit yet,” he said.

Approximately 20% of employed youth lost all or the majority of their hours, Statscan noted, adding employment fell even more sharply among students, many of whom work in the food service and accommodation sectors, which had the largest declines overall.

“We have a very heavily hit part-time jobs (sector) in general, which may help explain why young people in particular took it on the chin,” said Doug Porter, BMO chief economist.

Statscan said full-time employment dropped by 474,000 net positions, while part-time employment plummeted by 536,700 net jobs.

Reporting by Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; Editing by David Ljunggren and Jonathan Oatis