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COVID-19: A year in review

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Released: 2021-03-11

A year like no other

The year 2020 was one like no other and we have the data to prove it.

It started out like any other year, with Canadians mingling freely, celebrating the New Year by visiting family or friends at their homes, going to concerts, sporting events, parties, restaurants and bars. We travelled freely inside the country and around the world.

Then, in March, everything changed.

The year ended with our borders closed to all but essential travel, with much of country under a second lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19. Most Canadians spent the New Year holiday inside a small bubble or at home alone.

Our economy was 3.3% (correction) smaller at year end. Millions of Canadians were temporarily underemployed or out of work at some point last year. Almost 16,000 Canadians had died from COVID-19, making it the third leading cause of death in 2020, following cancer and heart disease. About 85% fewer Americans and overseas residents visited us last year, while 75% fewer Canadians returned home from abroad. Perhaps not surprisingly, almost 40% of Canadians said they had become more downcast since the onset of the pandemic.

This was also a downturn like no other, with sectors of the economy thriving, such as online sales, housing, forestry and crop farming.

Despite the enormous challenges posed by the pandemic, Canadians and businesses adapted to the new reality and carried on, caring for the most vulnerable at hospitals and nursing homes, working in shops and factories, and for those that could, increasingly working from home.

What we learned

How do we know all this? Because you told us, millions of you. We asked Canadians and businesses how they were doing over the course of the year and they shared how they fared during a year of massive economic and social disruption.

Thousands of Canadians voluntarily participated in the rapid response crowdsourcing surveys we conducted in 2020, and tens of thousands more responded to our regular surveys. We gleaned more data still from administrative sources to reduce respondent burden while, as always, respecting and protecting personal data.

COVID-19 in Canada: A one-year update on social and economic impacts

We would now like to share what we have learned through a compendium of tables that track a year of record highs and lows.

Analysts from across the agency have crunched the numbers and quantified and described the level of change in their field of expertise through a series of statistical vignettes of charts, text and tables.

This year-in-review compendium updates and extends our analysis of the pandemic's effects on the health, and social and economic lives of Canadians, based largely on information collected in late 2020 as public health measures began to tighten in response to the resurgence of COVID-19. It is organized around several key themes:

• How are Canadians adapting and responding to public health measures, and which socioeconomic factors are most related to vaccine hesitancy?

• What are the unintended consequences of the pandemic for the health of Canadians, including the implications of COVID-19 for excess mortality, cancer screening and mental health?

• To what extent have social and economic disparities widened as a result of the pandemic, given the disproportionate impacts of public health measures on more socially and financially vulnerable groups?

• What are the potential structural impacts of the pandemic on Canada's economy? How much financial uncertainty are businesses facing as support measures remain in place while restrictions continue to tighten and ease? What are the potential implications of the pandemic for business investment, productivity and competitiveness.

We hope this compendium will help you better understand how the pandemic has reshaped our lives. It provides a quick reference on the state of the recovery, especially as it pertains to recent changes in economic momentum, or to differences in the pace of the recovery across socioeconomic groups.

Other analysis in this compendium speaks more directly to what may ultimately prove to be the transformative impacts of the pandemic, as they relate to the changing nature of work, or the types of investments and activities that enhance Canadians' social and economic well-being.

For more information please explore our COVID-19: A data perspective page, which includes links to articles, dashboards and other information on COVID-19, as well as our compendium "The Social and Economic Impacts of COVID-19: A Six-Month Update."


The product "COVID-19 in Canada: A One-year Update on Social and Economic Impacts" is now available as part of A Presentation Series from Statistics Canada About the Economy, Environment and Society (Catalogue number11-631-X).

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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