Ottawa-Gatineau unemployment rate hits 8.4%

Ottawa
Stock image, for illustrative purposes only. (Photo by Philippe Beliveau on Unsplash)

Employment in Ottawa-Gatineau slumped to a six-year low last month as the local economic impact of measures aimed at containing COVID-19 came into sharper focus on Friday with the release of new job figures from Statistics Canada.

More than 70,000 jobs have dissolved in the last three months as many businesses curtailed their operations or closed their doors entirely, bringing the number of people working in the National Capital Region to its lowest level since 2014.

That pushed the unemployment rate up to 8.4 per cent in May. The local unemployment rate has never exceeded 7.2 per cent in the last decade.

Since the start of the crisis, the region’s hospitality and retail sectors have been the hardest hit by job losses. That trend continued in May, with accommodation and food services shedding 6,200 positions and the retail and wholesale trade industry contracting by 5,100 jobs.

By contrast, the region’s tech sector has continued to grow throughout the crisis. The industry now employs some 48,300 workers – a seven-month high. Meanwhile, employment levels at the region’s largest employer – the federal government – have held largely steady since the start of the year, providing some stability to the economy and sheltering Ottawa-Gatineau from the economic fallout felt in other cities across the country.

Nationally, Statistics Canada reported a record-high unemployment rate as the economy added 289,600 jobs in May, with businesses reopening amid easing public health restrictions.

The unemployment rate rose to 13.7 per cent, topping the previous high of 13.1 per cent set in December 1982 in more than four decades of comparable data.

The increase in the unemployment rate came as more people started looking for work.

The average economist estimate was for a loss of 500,000 jobs in May and for the unemployment rate to rise to 15 per cent, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

The increase in the number of jobs comes after three million jobs were lost over March and April, and about 2.5 million more had their hours slashed.

Statistics Canada says the number of people who worked less than half their usual hours fell by 292,000 in May.

– With reporting by the Canadian Press