More than one-third of Manitoba's workforce claims CERB payments, data shows

More than 246,000 Manitobans have taken advantage of Canada's emergency benefit payments, and nearly half of those are under the age of 35.

Province has 5th most recipients in the country

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides applicants — who must be at least 15 years old — with $2,000 for a four-week period ($500 per week). (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

More than 246,000 Manitobans have taken advantage of Canada's emergency benefit payments during the pandemic.

That's over one-third of the province's total workforce, said Phil Cyrenne, an economics professor at the University of Winnipeg.

The numbers suggest not everyone is being honest about their need for the government aid.

"It doesn't really sort of mesh with the May Labour Force Survey because the labour force survey would suggest there were 74,000 Manitobans who were unemployed," he said.

"I think if we had 250,000 people who were actually unemployed that would be an unemployment rate of around 37 per cent."

The latest statistics from the federal government, as of June 28, show 8,156,280 people across the country have received CERB for at least one month, amounting to $53.53 billion in payments.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit was created to give financial support to people whose income was directly affected by COVID-19 shutdowns. It provides applicants — who must be at least 15 years old — with $2,000 every four weeks ($500 per week), for up to 24 weeks. Applicants must not have earned more than $1,000 in income within the four-week benefit period of their claim.

To get the payments out as quickly as possible, the federal government does not require people to verify they have been laid off or have lost their job due to the pandemic. All they need do is answer a few questions on the phone or online.

A total of 246,440 Manitobans have tapped into the benefit, and nearly half of those are under the age of 35.

There were 50,940 people under 25 who received payments, while 61,310 were 25-34 years old. Another 49,020 were in the 35-44 age category.

Having such a large chunk of the younger population out of work is a concern, Cyrenne said.

"It's always a problem when young people are delaying getting jobs. It has a significant impact going forward," he said.

"You learn a lot about yourself and you learn a lot about work habits by having jobs. Any sort of interruption to that delays that progression."

Some, though, find other ways to advance their development — when the jobs aren't available, they turn to school.

"The response of young people to a recession is sometimes to get more training and so, at the university, we've seen a lot more applicants for spring and summer … figuring that you might as well, you know, get some skills while they're waiting for the job market to open up again," Cyrenne said.

The data doesn't break down the amount of payments in each province or territory. It does, however, examine the claims by gender.

In Manitoba, that is almost equally split — 123,530 are women and 122,780 men. Another 130 are listed as gender diverse, meaning their gender was either not disclosed or is non-binary.

The pandemic has created "a shock" to a number of sectors of the economy, and it's not clear whether some companies will go back to business as usual, Cyrenne said.

The number of people working from home and increasing services now being offered online will likely create a significant structural change to the economy, he said.

"I think most people are underestimating the fundamental restructuring that might take place," he said.

Ontario and Quebec have the most CERB recipients, at 3,270,810 and 1,855,650, respectively. They are followed by British Columbia (1,092,950), Alberta (982,030) and then Manitoba.