Foodservice jobs are being lost at almost double the rate of other industries

New Statistics Canada data shows again how hard foodservice jobs are being hit

By Tom Nightingale

The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on hospitality and foodservice jobs has been clear. But the latest figures from Statistics Canada looking at employment in this industry have put it in perspective again.

StatsCan’s latest Canadian Survey on Business Conditions (CSBC), published this month, was conducted between mid-September and late October. It reveals that accommodation and foodservice jobs are being laid off at almost twice the rate of other industries.

Pandemic layoffs

The data shows that foodservice and accommodation businesses have laid off staff at nearly double the rate of other industries. 62.1 per cent of operators in those industries report having laid off at least one employee. That is almost twice the national average of 36.5 per cent. This places restaurants and hotels 15 points worse off than any other industry, says ORHMA.

In fact, a staggering 74 per cent of the industry’s businesses that have laid off workers reported laying off half or more of their workforce. This is, again, far higher than the national average across all industries.

Many businesses in a variety of sectors did report having hired back some of the laid-off workers. However, 22.5 per cent of foodservice and accommodation businesses say they still expect to reduce their number of employees even further over the next three months. That’s the highest proportions among all sectors.

No wiggle room

It’s not just layoffs devastating the industry, either.

Close to three-fifths (57 per cent) of businesses in this sector say they’re unable to take on more debt. That is likely to lead to further layoffs, service reductions, and temporary or permanent closures. 22.5 per cent of this industry’s businesses also expect to decrease their staffing levels over the next three months. That is more than double the national average of 10.4 per cent.

The outlook is grim. 29.4 per cent of businesses in the industry believe they can only continue operating at their current level for less than six months. Beyond that, they will have to consider further staffing actions, closure or bankruptcy. Over half of accommodation and foodservice operators do not expect their revenues to grow in the next three months compared with the last quarter.

The StatsCan report is just the latest report to uncover the extent of the damage done to foodservice and hospitality. Last month’s annual report of the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada (CPHO) suggested that job losses during this pandemic have been far worse than were seen during the economic crisis of 2008-09.

Government relief

Canadian jobs and livelihoods, particularly in the hardest-hit sectors, depend on successful support programs being in place to keep businesses afloat.

On Nov. 19, shortly after this StatsCan study was published, the Senate of Canada passed Bill C-9. That measure amended the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) programs available to certain businesses.

The updated CERS program will provide rent and mortgage subsidies of up to 65 per cent of eligible expenses to qualifying businesses, charities, and non-profits. This support is also available directly to tenants. In addition, qualifying organizations significantly restricted by a mandatory public health order can receive an extra 25 per cent.

Overall, when combined together, the rent subsidy and lockdown support should provide hard-hit businesses that are subject to a lockdown with rent support of up to 90 per cent until June 2021. Applications are expected to be available on the federal government website soon.

Meanwhile, the updated CEWS program will see the current maximum subsidy rate of up to 65 per cent of eligible wages continue until Dec. 19, 2020.

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