Nfld. & Labrador

With 29,000 jobs lost, workers in N.L. are navigating their way through COVID-19

According to Lynn Gambin, the data shows the biggest job declines have come in forestry, fishing, mining, and oil and gas.

'We just kind of weren't sure if we were going to have a job again,' Simone Savard-Walsh said

Many businesses across the province have closed their doors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving employees to wonder when they will be working again. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Stephanie Russell and Simone Savard-Walsh both remember their last day of work before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

For Savard-Walsh, a server at Mallard Cottage, the last day was March 15.

"I remember the kind of mumblings that were around at that point. We kind of knew that something was up," Savard-Walsh told The St. John's Morning Show.

"We just kind of weren't sure if we were going to have a job again or what the scenario was going to be."

Russell's last shift as a hairdresser was on March 18.

"I don't know if I would call it a regular day, because I actually called in a bunch of clients and worked until 1 a.m," she said. "Just because I knew that was going to be my last day of work."

Russell and Savard-Walsh are part of the 29,000 jobs were lost in the province last month according to Statistics Canada. There were also 5,800 jobs lost in March.

Although they are unable to work, both Russell and Savard-Walsh said they have been able to stay afloat thanks to federal measures like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

"[The] CERB obviously is a huge help," Savard-Walsh said. "I'm also very fortunate, cause my husband works in an industry where he can still work. So that half of our income is still coming in, which is great. I consider myself very lucky in that way."

Biggest declines in trades, retail, says MUN economics prof

Lynn Gambin, an associate professor of economics at Memorial University, said of the 29,000 jobs lost in April, the data shows the biggest declines came in foresting, fishing, mining and oil and gas. Some of the bigger declines were also seen in construction, and the wholesale and retail industry, leaving a large impact on the province's economy.

"It's a very difficult situation," Gambin said. "Especially if we combine what's going on because of the pandemic and the restrictions on movement and on business openings and things like that. When we combine that with the low oil prices that we're seeing … and also with the fiscal situation in the province as well, it makes things a little more difficult."

Lynn Gambin, an economics professor at Memorial University, says as the pandemic continues, the impact to the province's economy will continue to be seen. (Jonny Hodder/CBC)

As the province continues through Alert Level 4 of its reopening plan under the COVID-19 pandemic, Gambin said, positive signs for businesses and workers could start to show.

"We saw what we expected in the April figures that there was a big drastic impact on the labour market in the province, with all of those tightenings and restrictions imposed by the public health orders," she said. "Moving to alert level 4, we should still maybe see some downturn, and we won't expect things to fully recover, but hopefully there might be some positive signs in May."

Gambin said the current situation around businesses could also bring change in the future of the province's economy down the road.

"I think with every crisis there's opportunities," she said. "People have been very versatile in terms of trying to continue some business operations.… I'm sure there will be changes in how businesses operate going forward. They're going to have to think about their physical spaces differently and about different offerings online, and reaching out to customers and clients in a different way.

"A new normal, I'm sure, will appear. It will take a while and we'll see what it looks like."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show