By Patricia Arsenault, Executive Vice President, Research Consulting Services | April 13, 2020

Data from Statistics Canada’s March Labour Force Survey (conducted during the week of March 15 to 21, 2020) provides the first comprehensive glimpse into the toll that the COVID-19 measures are taking on employment levels in Canada.

The March LFS data shows just over 1 million fewer total jobs than in February (on an unadjusted basis), with part-time jobs taking a bigger hit than full-time jobs (down -16% and -3%, respectively).

Job growth is a key driver in housing demand (as we explored in our December 2019 Altus Group Housing Report) – and in particular full-time jobs.

Chart showing the percentage of first-time home buyers in Canada in last two years
Chart showing month to month change in full-time employment by age group, Canada, March 2020

The 25-44 age group – which, according to Altus Group’s FIRM Survey, accounted for over 80% of first-time buyer home sales in the past 2 years – suffered massive losses in full-time jobs in March. But the Pyrrhic victory is that the relative loss was less than for the under 25 and the 45 and older age groups.

These job loss patterns could have implications not just for absolute housing demand levels going forward, but also the relative mix of demand between the various segments (e.g. first-time buyer, move-up buyer, move-down/lifestyle and “younger” senior segments). But it is still early days. We need to see how employment patterns unfold over the next few months. On the positive side, some of the jobs lost in March will be regained, thanks to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program, and others that would have been lost going forward may now be retained.


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