New immigrants most affected by job disruptions due to pandemic

Recent immigrants to Canada have been more affected than the Canadian-born population by changes in employment resulting from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, according to a recent Statistics Canada study.

The pandemic has led to a decline in employment for a large part of the Canadian population, but even more so for recent immigrants.
During the sharp economic downturn in March and April 2020, the Canadian labour market lost 3 million jobs. From May to July, as activity picked up, 1.7 million jobs were regained.

According to a Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey released on August 20, recent immigrants were more likely than the Canadian-born to lose their jobs in March and April. When the pandemic hit, the transition to unemployment increased for all three groups included in the study: immigrants who had arrived in Canada within the last 10 years, immigrants who had arrived in Canada more than 10 years ago, and those born in Canada.

However, the increase in the rate of people who transitioned to unemployment was much more significant for recent immigrants, reaching a peak of 17.3% compared to 13.5% for the Canadian-born and long-term immigrants during the month of April.

Recent immigrant women experienced the largest increase in the rate of transition to unemployment during the economic downturn. Nearly 20% of recent immigrant women employed in March did not have a job in April, compared to 13% of Canadian-born women. This gap narrowed to only 2 percentage points in June and virtually disappeared during July.

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Factors contributing to higher transition rates to unemployment among recent immigrants

Recent immigrants may find it more difficult to transfer their educational and occupational qualifications to the Canadian labour market and to find stable, well-paying jobs. As a result, a larger share of recent immigrants works in lower-paying jobs, short-term jobs and jobs in accommodation and food services.

In February, for example, before the impact of the pandemic, 31% of recent immigrants had been employed for less than a year, compared to 15% of Canadian-born workers. Similarly, in February, 22% of recent immigrants were employed in low-paying jobs, compared to 12% of Canadian-born workers.

The data show that recent immigrants tend to have jobs of shorter duration than their Canadian-born counterparts and that workers with short-term jobs are more likely to be laid off during an economic downturn. The fact that job losses in March and April were heavily concentrated in lower-paying jobs helps to explain why recent immigrants were harder hit by job loss during this period than their Canadian-born counterparts

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