Jim Stanford writes that Canada's recent employment numbers are good. But we have a long way to go:
The headline growth in jobs (almost one million more Canadians were working in June, compared to May) was very encouraging, much better than expected. By that measure, Canada's labour market has climbed almost halfway back out of the hole we fell into from February through April.
But the next steps of job recovery will be much harder to achieve. The share of remaining unemployed Canadians expecting to go back to their former jobs has fallen substantially (just one-third now). We are experiencing a wave of second-order layoffs as companies permanently downsize because their market isn't coming back. Recent examples of that (all in the hard-hit transportation sector) include Air Canada (20,000 layoffs), WestJet (3,300 layoffs), Bombardier (2,500 layoffs), and VIA Rail (1,000 layoffs).
And make no mistake. Those numbers are directly related to the government programs which have been spawned in the wake of COVID:
This was a busy week for Canadian economic data, with today's labour force report coming on the heels of Wednesday's federal government "fiscal snapshot." Most observers thought the snapshot was bad news, because it forecast an enormous $343 billion deficit. But in fact, that big deficit is the flip side of the coin of today's good jobs numbers.
The two are clearly related: Without the enormous injections of government support (for household incomes, to keep workers on payrolls, to fight the health battle against COVID-19) that caused that big deficit, today's job numbers would have been much more dire.
But one brutal fact remains: The suffering has been unequally distributed:
Women, young workers, workers in temporary and insecure jobs (including gig workers), immigrants and migrant workers, have all also experienced disproportionate harm from the crisis. Ongoing policy responses (including both income supports and job-creation measures) must be focused on those hard-hit groups, or else we will experience a destructive polarization of well-being and opportunity that, among other consequences, will weaken our capacity to respond effectively to future public health emergencies.
Now the real work must begin. And that means those who have been the worst affected must be helped in finding a way forward.