Termination of COVID relief expected to change job market

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

The COVID-19 relief benefit plan will end on Saturday after the federal government introduced it last spring to support families and individuals affected by business closures.

The first relief program, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), was in effect from March 15 to Sept. 26, 2020. CERB provided financial support to self-employed and employed Canadians directly affected by COVID-19. Eligible applicants received $2,000 for a 4-week period.

On Sept. 27, 2020, the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) was implemented for a 2-week period. Applicants could have applied for a maximum of 27 periods, out of the 28 periods available until next Saturday.

Jesse Carmody, Resource and Information leader at the Northern Community Development Services (NCDS), said the Ontario labour market took a 4.8 per cent decline – one they noticed in the community as well.

Carmody said pre-pandemic, the local labour market was steady and averaged relatively the same as the rest of the province. He added that jobs were typically filled prior to the posting deadline.

However, that changed with the pandemic, but Carmody said he hopes that they will continue to see jobs being filled at a faster pace as restrictions ease and CRB ends.

“When analyzing the labour market trends that we’re noticing here in the community and the rest of Ontario, it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that the heavy restrictions and the lockdowns, combined with a year and a half of COVID-19 relief money being handed out to those who remain unemployed has had a huge impact on the hit on our local markets,” Carmody said.

He said the implementation of the relief benefits resulted in a good portion of the labour market remaining unemployed.

During the short periods when COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and businesses could open again, Carmody said they noticed a fairly large increase in local employers seeking employees, adding that it is likely due to their staff being laid off, and some accepting the CRB relief benefit opposed to going back to work.

A similar trend was notice in the spring of 2021, when businesses were able to open again after long periods of restrictions and lockdowns.

“We noticed a huge increase in employers seeking employees to get their businesses back up and running – needing to fill several positions due to the loss of so many employees,” Carmody said. “We started to see an increase in clients coming through the doors again after finally being open to the public.”

Right now, as vaccine mandates began kicking in, Carmody said a few employers are asking NCDS to include a fine print on the job advertisement stating that proof of double vaccination will be required upon hire.

“[We still have] a lot of job opportunities in our community – but they’re being filled faster,” Carmody said. “We’re noticing an increase in jobs being filled again – prior to the job posting’s deadline.”