indicatorThe Owl

Survey shows impact of pandemic on jobs

April was a cruel month for businesses and their employees.

By 30 April 2020 2 min read

More than 12,600 people visited Statistics Canada's website in April and took part in an online survey about how COVID-19 is affecting their business. Although crowdsourced data cannot be applied to the Canadian business sector as a whole, the survey’s findings provide a preliminary sense of how the pandemic is affecting businesses and their employees.

In Alberta, 43.6 per cent of respondents said their business reduced staff hours or shifts because of COVID-19 and 41.8 per cent reported having to lay off staff. At 2.8 per cent, only a small fraction of businesses included in the survey increased staff hours or shifts.

Many employees who kept their jobs faced reduced or frozen compensation. One out of five participating businesses said they had to reduce wages or salaries, about one in ten had to freeze them and 7.7 per cent had to delay paying their staff. Only a handful of respondents (2.1 per cent) said they increased wages or salaries as a result of the pandemic.

Just shy of one in ten of the Alberta businesses in the survey had to lay off all of their employees with one-quarter forced to lay off half or more of their staff.

Layoffs in the accommodation and food sector and the retail sector were particularly common. About six in ten accommodation and food sector businesses in Canada (industry-specific data by province are not available) reported that they had to lay off half or more of their staff with about a quarter forced to lay everyone off. About four in ten respondents in the national retail sector reported that they had to lay off half or more of their staff with 16.3 per cent obliged to issue everyone a pink slip. 

Clearly, April was a cruel month for businesses and their employees. As more statistics become available from the Labour Force Survey and the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours we will be able to tell if April was the cruellest month or the worst is still to come.


A note on COVID-19: The COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on the economy here in Alberta and around the world. The Owl will report on these impacts when good information is available while continuing to track regularly scheduled releases of economic data and long-term trends. Please go to for COVID-19-related updates from ATB Financial.

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