COVID-19 roundup: StatCan data highlights inequalities in pandemic’s impact

Statistics Canada building and signs are pictured in Ottawa in July 2019. The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick

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It’s day 118 since Canada’s 100th coronavirus case. The number of cases is 105,764 as of publication time, up 229 since yesterday—a 28 per cent decrease from the seven-day prior average of 317 new cases. At its peak on May 3, the seven-day average was 1,603 new cases a day. 

Ontario reported no new COVID-19 related deaths for the first time since the end of March. Three new deaths were reported in Quebec.

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Unequal impact: The pandemic has affected the ability of members of visible minority groups to meet their financial obligations and essential needs much more significantly than for white people, according to new crowdsourced data from Statistics Canada. Respondents identifying as Arab (44.0 per cent), Filipino (42.9 per cent), West Asian (42.0 per cent), Black (38.5 per cent) and South Asian (38.5 per cent) were most likely to report that COVID-19 had a strong or moderate impact on their economic security. By contrast, less than a quarter of white respondents in the agency’s 36,000-person survey said the same.

Members of visible minority groups—the agency’s term for non-white people—were significantly more likely to live in poverty than white people pre-pandemic, StatCan noted; rates measured in the 2016 census were as much as 14.5 percentage points higher for some groups. The agency said that’s partly because as many as one-third of the members of some major groups are recent immigrants. But the differences in the pandemic’s financial impact “remained large” even after controlling for non-racial demographic factors.

StatCan also recorded a smaller, but still significant difference in the employment effects of COVID-19. Just over a third of white respondents who had jobs pre-pandemic said they’d lost them or were working reduced hours. Employment declines were highest among respondents identifying as West Asian (46.5 per cent), Filipino (42.2 per cent), Southeast Asian (40.2 per cent) and Korean (40.1 per cent). The study did not report on the economic impacts on Indigenous people.

The agency cautioned against reading the crowdsourced results as representative of the whole population, and better data on the job market impact of the pandemic by race is coming. This month, StatCan will add questions about visible minority group membership to its Labour Force Survey, the primary short-term measure of employment in Canada. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Black workers are more likely to lose jobs or income than white ones as a result of the pandemic.

There’s still no national-level or robust local data in Canada on the health impacts of COVID-19 by race. In May, Manitoba began collecting information on patients’ ethnicities, and last month, Ontario announced regulations designed to do the same. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Black and Latinx people are nearly three times as likely to become infected as white people.  

In the markets: Global stocks surged Monday, with China’s CSI 300 index rising 5.7 per cent to reach a five-year high. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 3.8 per cent to reach a technical bull market, and the Nasdaq briefly hit an intraday-trading record of 10,458 points. 

The uptick comes despite the U.S. reporting over 42,500 new COVID-19 infections, its highest number for a Sunday. China’s rise was partially driven by retail investors making bets on tech firms, and on the country’s burgeoning economic recovery picking up. The state-owned China Securities Journal published a front-page editorial encouraging investors to foster a “healthy bull market,” which multiple analysts said helped push stocks up. China is also preparing for the world’s largest IPO so far this year. On Monday, chip maker Semiconductor Manufacturing International filed plans for a US$6.55-billion listing in Shanghai. 

Canada’s TSX benchmark was a comparative laggard, closing up 0.47 per cent after the Bank of Canada reported a drop in consumer and business confidence. The Canadian dollar rose to 73.83 cents U.S. in late afternoon trading. The World Bank has cancelled plans to issue a second round of pandemic bonds following criticism that its initial US$320 million took too long to pay out. German factory orders jumped 10.4 per cent in May, sending the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 up 1.1 per cent. 

“Given that it’s a remote experience, there was generally a fear of ‘are they going to be showing up? How are they going to be showing up? Are they going to be passively sitting at their screens all day?”: Vicki Tung, Goldman Sachs’ head of campus recruitment, is welcoming 2,200 interns this week, each of whom will have an hourly scheduling, including one-on-one online meetings with bankers and multiple daily 30-minute virtual job-shadowing sessions, which allows them to see a trader’s screen while video-chatting.   

Cross-country checkup: The Atlantic bubble has allowed people living in separate border towns to reunite for the first time in several months. Scientists say humans hunkering down in their cottages during the lockdowns have inadvertently contributed to a spike in forest fires in Quebec. Ontario plans to make it easier to build housing projects near transit stations to help boost the economy. Manitoba’s reopening hasn’t led to a surge in coronavirus cases, but officials are still urging caution. The second round of Alberta’s program to deliver another 20 million masks through drive-throughs will begin next week. The Calgary Stampede is exchanging its rodeo for firework displays and drive-through pancake parties. With Yellowknife reopening, the city elders are planning to get together for an age-old tradition: drinking coffee together. 

Bay Street to Main Street: The Bank of Canada’s business outlook survey dropped to its lowest level since the 2008 recession. The survey, conducted from mid-May to early June, shows a majority of businesses intend to cut investment spending, and about half expect sales to get back to pre-pandemic levels within the next 12 months. Hiring plans are muted, with one-quarter of companies expecting to rehire some recently laid-off workers. 

The bank’s survey of consumers shows the highest number of Canadians expecting to lose their job in the next 12 months since the bank started surveying on the topic in 2014. Plans for spending also fell significantly, with consumers reporting plans to focus on essential goods. The bank’s survey isn’t the only data showing a soft economic recovery. Several major Canadian banks will let clients defer payments on personal loans until the end of September, an indication that many borrowers need more help. RBC has issued 450,000 deferrals, for periods ranging from one month to six months.

  • Moody’s expects the national economy to contract by seven per cent in 2020 and all 10 provinces to post “material deficits.” 
  • Eighty-seven per cent of Canadian restaurants will take seven months or more to return to profitability, according to a survey by industry association Restaurants Canada. 
  • Maturing energy debts of Canadian firms are up over 40 per cent compared with 2019 and on track to be the most for the fourth year in a row. The money is coming due amid record low oil prices and tepid demand due to a pandemic-slowed economy. 
  • Toronto real estate buyers are driving up sales in other parts of Ontario as they look for greater square footage after months of working from home. The surge is partially driven by a growing number of employers saying work-from-home is here to stay.
  • Subprime lenders, who serve the most vulnerable debtors, are reporting stable or falling delinquencies despite the pandemic. The news is due in part to a combination of significant government aid and a sharp drop in spending. 

In the lab: Chinese biotech firm SinoVac is one of three companies entering the late stages of vaccine trialling. Globally, 1,200 clinical trials are underway to test COVID-19 treatments, but according to new reporting from Stat, the trials are either too small or unlikely to yield meaningful results; about 38 per cent haven’t yet enrolled any patients. A group of scientists have written to the World Health Organization urging greater acknowledgement of the role of airborne transmission, saying the WHO has underestimated the threat. A new United Nations report is asking the world to treal the environmental causes of zoonotic epidemics to prevent future pandemics. 

Drinking from the firehose: 

  • The Girl Scouts, a megachurch in Chicago, a synagogue in New York, a chain restaurant, a conservative think tank dedicated to cutting government spending, a company owned by one of the biggest hip-hop stars in the world, a Trump-friendly media outlet and a law firm with 14 locations across the U.S. and London all received aid from the Paycheck Protection program designed to help small businesses grappling with COVID-19. 
  • Some employers are balking at testing their employees for COVID-19…
  • …while others still are hiring their own epidemiologists.
  • In a boon for foreign investors, hundreds of Japanese companies are streaming their annual shareholder meetings for the first time.

Around the world: Around 4,000 members of a South Korean church who have recovered from COVID-19—the country’s largest outbreak, and the the first big one outside of China—will donate their plasma for research in gratitude to health-care workers; the City of Daegu is suing the church for non-compliance with pandemic efforts. Half of the businesses that have received wage subsidies from the U.K. government said layoffs are inevitable when the program ends in October. Harvard and Princeton University will reopen with less than half of its undergraduates on campus. For the first time in decades, Pamplona, Spain cancelled the running of the bulls.

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* We’re emphasizing new cases, rather than running totals, because “flattening the curve” is when each day’s new cases are fewer than those of the previous day. The percentage increase is determined based on how today’s cases compare to a rolling seven-day prior average.


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