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130,000 and counting: Tracking COVID-19 layoffs across Canada

An Air Canada check-in desk at the Calgary airport in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, March 25, 2020, amid a worldwide COVID-19 flu pandemic. The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh
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As companies and governments grapple with the economic fallout of COVID-19, they’re closing their doors and cutting staff. The Logic has started an effort to track who’s losing their jobs amid the pandemic.

The Logic’s ongoing analysis, which covers the period beginning March 17, currently encompasses some 134,171 workers in Canada who have lost their jobs with 68 employers, including some of Canada’s largest corporations as well as small- and medium-sized businesses, innovation-economy startups and public-sector organizations.

Talking Point

The Logic’s ongoing analysis, which covers the period beginning March 17, currently encompasses some 134,171 workers in Canada who have lost their jobs with 68 employers. The aviation industry has been hardest hit, with Air Canada’s job cuts being among the largest in recent history. The Logic’s analysis was drawn from public reports about layoffs, furloughs and other job cuts around the country; not all layoffs have been reported or publicly disclosed—over two million people reportedly filed for employment insurance in the last few weeks.

The aviation sector has been hit hardest, the analysis shows, with every Canadian airline reducing its workforce in recent days. This week, Air Canada announced it would be temporarily letting go of 16,500 employees—the biggest layoff by a Canadian company thus far. Unions had earlier revealed that the airline was laying off 5,100 flight attendants and putting 600 pilots on unpaid leave. Air Canada’s job cuts are among the largest in Canada’s recent history; the top spot for a single-company layoff is still held by Target, which made 17,600 full and part-time employees redundant in January 2015.

Tech and telecommunications workers have thus far been spared the job cuts hitting Main Street businesses like retail and hospitality. Only five major reductions have been reported thus far, with Rangle.io, Ecobee, Fielding Environmental, Ritual and TekSavvy laying off 479 staff between them. TekSavvy said its cuts were due to the federal government’s telecommunications policy decisions, not the impacts of the virus. But innovation-economy executives have warned that more cuts may be coming, particularly if the federal government does not broaden eligibility criteria for its wage-subsidy program to allow high-growth startups to qualify. 

Among the other largest cuts are aerospace firm Bombardier, which furloughed approximately 70 per cent of its 17,600-person workforce, and Cineplex, which closed all its theatres and laid off all part-time workers, of which it had 11,180 at last count. 

The biggest single workforce reduction, however, is in the public sector. The Alberta Teachers’ Association estimates that around 6,000 substitute teachers and as many as 20,000 support staff will be affected by the provincial government’s cuts to education funding amid school closures. 

Excluded from The Logic’s analysis are companies that have announced layoffs but have not disclosed a confirmed number of workers that will be impacted, including Ford, General Motors and Toyota, which have all temporarily closed their North American manufacturing plants, leaving “thousands of Canadian Unifor members out of work,” according to the union. Retailers like Lush and Reitman’s have also shut stores, but haven’t revealed how many staff are affected. 

Not all layoffs have been reported or publicly disclosed—over two million people reportedly filed for employment insurance in the last few weeks. On Thursday, Restaurants Canada said an estimated 800,000 food-service jobs have already been lost nationwide due to COVID-19’s economic impact. 

The data for The Logic’s analysis was drawn from public reports about layoffs, furloughs and other job cuts around the country. The Logic has not independently confirmed these reports. Layoffs are logged by the date they took effect, or in the absence of that information, the date of the report. The Logic also categorized companies by sector, and cases by the location of the jobs lost. In some cases, the numbers for jobs lost and organizations’ total workforces may be approximations. The Logic only included instances where a specific number of jobs lost was reported or disclosed. The analysis does not differentiate between full-time and part-time jobs. You can see our tracking document here.

The Logic also analyzed self-reported layoffs detailed by entrepreneurs and owners in the crowdsourced “Save Small Business” database, which contains more than 24,000 entries; only cases where specific numbers were provided and that affected at least 20 people were included. This data was excluded from the main analysis, because it is difficult to verify. But it shows 82 retailers, restaurants and service businesses have laid off a combined 5,851 people—more than mega-chain Indigo Books & Music’s 5,200-person mass temporary layoff.

The Logic will continue to track and analyze job losses due to COVID 19, and publish updates as new data and reports emerge. If your company has experienced layoffs or furloughs and is not on our list, please fill out this form.

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