Laid-off workers find alternative income as COVID-19 changes the job landscape

Many Albertans are out of work, as businesses are forced to close in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, there are suddenly new jobs available in places that offer essential services.

Delivery drivers, grocery store workers and internet-based services are in demand

As layoffs continue in most sectors, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused demand for some types of jobs to rise. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Many Albertans are out of work, as businesses are forced to close in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, there are suddenly new jobs available in industries that offer essential services.

Sophia Lopez said her workplace will likely shut down soon, and her husband has been temporarily laid off. It's a similar story for many right now.

That's why, Lopez said, when they were able to find work at a southern Alberta farm, it was a relief.

"It felt like a breath of fresh air to know that we have some sort of opportunity that a very minuscule amount of people across the entire country have," she said.

There are also still opportunities at companies like Walmart, which is busier than ever.

Walmart Canada's John Benjamin said the company needs to fill positions.

"We've obviously seen a big increase in home delivery and grocery pick up, and so those roles again are part of the recruitment," he said.

"We announced last week that we were hiring up to about 10,000 associates across the country. Since then we've seen roughly about 10,000 applications."

The health-care, delivery and grocery sectors are experiencing growing demand for services.

Across Canada, several grocers have increased wages for staff in recent weeks. Amazon has temporarily hiked wages and overtime pay for staff in Canada too.

With some self-isolation orders and restaurant closures, Calgarians are testing the limits of the city's grocery delivery services and apps. 

The Mustard Seed and the Drop-In Centre have both been identified as sites set up to receive new funding from the province, part of which is earmarked for hiring more staff.

Jeff Aplin, CEO of the David Aplin Group told CBC News there is job growth in some limited sectors right now.

For instance, Aplin expects job opportunities in technology and IT from the main telecom and internet corporations and from firms big and small which play a role in providing or supporting online services.

"A lot of businesses and organizations have been talking for a long time about the digital transformation. Well, it just happened last week. Everybody who can, is working from home. If you can't, you're probably not working," he said. 

For Lopez and her husband, the temporary and flexible farm positions are filling their needs.

Still, they hope life will eventually return to normal.

With files from Tahirih Foroozan and Kyle Bakx


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