Latest March Data Captures Devastating Impact of COVID-19 on Canadian Businesses

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March was a very tough month. But just how tough it was is starting to come to light through new data released by Statistics Canada.

With stay-at-home orders implemented, and non-essential businesses forced to close, the economy changed dramatically, causing millions of Canadians to lose their jobs or receive pay cuts and reduced hours as businesses struggled to stay afloat.

New data from Stats Can shows the stark reality of just how significantly the COVID-19 shutdown has impacted businesses and employees. Overall, 45.2% of Canadian employers said they had laid off 80% or more of their workforce in March as a direct result of the pandemic, while more than half of Canadian companies said they saw their revenue drop by more than 20% in the initial wave of COVID-19.

Nearly one-third of businesses said sales dropped more than 40% in the first quarter of 2020 when compared to a year earlier, while about one-fifth of businesses said their revenue had declined between 20% and 40% during the period, according to the survey results that were published Wednesday by Stats Can and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

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Declines in revenue greater than 20% were most apparent in industries that see close contact with customers, including in the accommodation and food services (72.6%), arts, entertainment and recreation (66.7%), and retail trade (60.3%) — which is understandable given they were the first non-essential businesses ordered to close.

In contrast, just over two-fifths of businesses in each of the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (42.0%) and the utilities (40.4%) sectors reported either no change or an increase in revenue.

What’s more, businesses in Alberta, Ontario, and British Columbia were the most likely to see significant revenue drops, according to the survey.

In response to revenue shortfalls, over one-quarter (28.6%) of businesses requested credit from financial institutions to cover operating costs and more than three-quarters of applicants said their requests were either fully or partially approved, while 20% of businesses that pay rent had their payments deferred.

And while most companies said they were negatively impacted by physical distancing measures, nearly two-thirds (62.3%) said they could reopen or return to normal operations less than one month after those measures are removed.

Methodology: From April 3-24, representatives from more than 12,600 employers visited Statistics Canada’s site and took part in an online questionnaire. Since it’s crowdsourced, not collected using a probability-based sample, findings can’t be applied to Canada’s overall economy.

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