Halifax Covid Update: Recovering, But Not Symptom-Free

Posted: November 12, 2020

Ian Munro

Chief Economist
Halifax Partnership

The fall brought several pandemic milestones. Early in September students returned to the classroom after the longest March Break in history. We marked half a year since public health authorities first placed restrictions on movement and gatherings. Through October we remained successful in “flattening the curve” with no more than a handful of active cases at any one time since the spring. There has been, however, an up-tick in new cases recently. Amidst these signposts it is time to take stock of how the pandemic has affected Halifax economically.

Headline figures include a projected 4.7% GDP contraction in 2020, but strong rebounds in growth of 5.8% and 4.0% in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

From the beginning of the year to May, employment in Halifax plummeted by almost 10%, but by September it had surpassed the level seen in January, with a further increase in October. However, comparing October 2020 to October 2019, employment is still down by 0.9%.

The wholesale & retail trade and accommodation & food services sectors took the greatest pummelling through the spring, with 15,000 jobs lost by May. By October employment in accommodation & food services had grown for four consecutive months and was almost back at January levels. Wholesale & retail trade, however, reversed its growth trend in September and then fell further in October.

Lower-income workers, especially women, also have suffered disproportionate losses. From January to May, 7.4% of male-held jobs were lost, but for women the figure was more than one-and-a-half times higher at 12.1%. Women had the double-misfortune of being over-represented in the retail and tourism sectors and in being more affected by childcare responsibilities while schools were closed.

One bright spot, at least for the time being, is that we have not seen spikes in delinquent loans or insolvencies, for either consumers or businesses. The massive income supports provided by government have done their intended job and kept many people and companies afloat, although at the cost of enormous increases to our debt levels. As these supports continue to evolve, these figures will bear watching: have we indeed escaped a flood of bankruptcies or merely delayed it?

Thanks to the way we all pulled together over the past eight months to do the right thing and take care of each other, children can go to school, workers can go to work, and customers can go to stores and restaurants, albeit with some modifications and restrictions. Some are still hurting and fearful about what may come next, though, and continued support will be required for some time yet.

Compared to much of the world, Halifax is in a good place. It has been a tough slog, but there is reason for optimism.

Keep abreast of the economic signals discussed here. Visit our new COVID-19 Recovery Tracker.



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