Canadian Economic Dashboard and COVID-19

Release date: March 26, 2020

Weekly update - Friday, May 22, 2020

The Consumer Price Index declined 0.2% on a year-over-year basis in April as lower energy prices pushed the headline rate into negative territory for the first time since September 2009. Energy prices continued to fall sharply as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and were down 23.7% on a year-over-year basis in April. Gasoline prices in April were down 39.3%, the largest year-over-year decline on record. Excluding energy prices, consumer price inflation in April was 1.6%.

Food prices rose 3.4% on a year-over-year basis in April, as strong demand coupled with supply-related issues bolstered prices for pork and beef. Prices for household cleaning products, measured on a monthly basis, rose sharply in April, as the demand for these products has strengthened as a result of COVID-19. The pandemic also affected prices for clothing and footwear, which fell 5.9% on a monthly basis in April, the largest monthly decline on record. Many retailers applied large discounts to on-line prices in April to reduce inventories of seasonal stock in light of mandatory restrictions on in-store shopping.

Storefront closures had a substantial impact on retailers in March, as sales plunged 10.0% to $47.1 billion, the largest monthly decline on record. Lower sales among motor vehicle and parts dealers, clothing and clothing accessories stores, and gasoline stations contributed to the record decline. In contrast, sales at food and beverage stores rose by 22.8% in March. The on-line sales of Canadian retailers also strengthened, as many businesses opened or expanded their on-line platforms. Before adjusting for seasonality, retail e-commerce in March was up 40% on a year-over-year basis.

About 40% of retailers closed their doors in March as a result of COVID-19 with an average length of closure of about five business days. Statistics Canada has also provided an advance estimate of retail sales in April, with preliminary data pointing to a decline of about 15%.

Wholesale sales fell 2.2% to $63.9 billion in March, reflecting sharp declines among wholesalers of autos and auto parts. Sales in the auto subsector were down 21.2% to $9.3 billion. In contrast, sales among wholesalers in the food, beverage and tobacco subsector rose 8.1% to $13.3 billion in March, the largest gain on record.

Over three-quarters of wholesalers reported that their business activities in March were impacted by COVID-19, with wholesalers of home furnishings and personal goods among the most affected.

Upcoming releases: On May 25th, Statistics Canada will release Civil Aviation statistics for reference month March. Also for March, Railway Carloadings and Aircraft Movement statistics will be released on May 27th and 28th respectively. On May 29th, Statistics Canada will release gross domestic product for the first quarter of 2020.

Data

The data used to create this interactive web application is from the following listed data tables:

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Additional information

Notes

This dashboard presents selected data that are relevant for monitoring the impacts of COVID-19 on economic activity in Canada. It includes data on a range of monthly indicators – real GDP, consumer prices, employment, merchandise exports and imports, retail sales, hours worked and manufacturing sales - as well as monthly data on aircraft movements, railway carloadings, and travel between Canada and other countries.

Estimates are presented from January 2019 to the current reference month for each data series. The information will be updated continuously as new data becomes available, and additional series may be added to the dashboard as circumstances warrant.

Previous weekly updates

Weekly update - Friday, May 15, 2020

COVID-19 had a substantial impact on manufacturing sales in March, which fell 9.2% to $50.8 billion, the lowest level since June of 2016. Over three quarters of manufacturing establishments reported that their activities in March were impacted by COVID-19. Manufacturers of transportation equipment were among the most affected, as all Canadian auto assembly plants and several North American parts suppliers scaled down production due to the pandemic. Sales of auto manufacturers and parts suppliers were both down over 30% in March. In all, over one-half of the estimated COVID-19 related decline in March sales reflected lower sales among makers of transportation equipment. In contrast, food manufacturers reported higher sales in March, due to an increased demand for meat and dairy products.

Overall manufacturing sales are expected to continue to decline in April in light of physical distancing measures and economic shutdowns.

On May 11th, Statistics Canada released the leading indicator of cross-border traveller volume for April. The data showed that cross-border travel by automobile between Canada and the United States remained at a near standstill in April, following the sharp decline in March. The number of U.S. travellers entering Canada by automobile through land ports fell by nearly 97% compared to April of last year, while the number of Canadians returning from the United States by automobile was down 95%.

On May 13th, Statistics Canada released Canadian merchandise import transaction counts for April. Import transactions data tend to move in the same direction as monthly merchandise trade flows, and may provide a useful indicator of the level of merchandise trade activity. The number of import transactions fell 22% in April, and was down 27% when compared to April of last year. Merchandise trade values for April 2020 will be released on June 4th.

Upcoming releases: Wholesale sales and retail sales, both for reference month March, will be released on May 20th and May 22nd, respectively. The consumer price index for April will be released on May 20th.

Weekly update - Friday, May 8, 2020

Following employment losses of over one million in March, employment fell by nearly two million in April as the impacts of physical distancing and economic shutdowns on labour market activity became more apparent. Over one half of the employment losses in April were among core-age workers aged 25 to 54, with losses among core-age men (-646,000) exceeding those among core-age women (-491,000). Employment among youth aged 15 to 24 was down 480,000 in April, while employment among workers aged 55 and over fell by 377,000.

While losses in March were heavily concentrated in services, employment fell sharply in April in both service industries (-1,373,000) and goods industries (-621,000). Wholesale and retail trade, accommodation and food services, construction and manufacturing posted the largest declines.

From February to April, total employment in Canada has declined by 15.7%. The official unemployment rate has risen from 5.6% to 13.0% over this two-month period. In April, the unemployment rate would be 17.8% if adjusted to include individuals who were not counted as unemployed due to reasons specific to the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Canada’s employment rate – the portion of the working age population that is employed – has declined by 9.7 percentage points from February to April. The overall employment rate in April was 52.1%. Among core-age workers, the employment rate in April was 72.6%, down from 80.2% in March. Among core-age men, the employment rate in April fell to 76.2%, while it declined to 68.9% among core-aged women. The employment rate among youth was 38.2% in April and has fallen almost 20 percentage points since February.

March’s international trade report, released on May 5th, highlighted the initial impacts of COVID-19 on North American producers, as lower trade flows between Canada and the United States pushed total Canadian merchandise trade to its lowest monthly level since January 2018. Exports fell 4.7% in March, with lower shipments to the U.S accounting for about 80% of the overall decline. Similarly, imports were down 3.5%, almost all on account of lower shipments from the U.S.

The declines in March reflected lower shipments of motor vehicles and parts as automakers and several parts suppliers began to shutdown production as public health measures to contain COVID-19 were being implemented. Declines in aircraft and aircraft equipment also contributed to the reduction in trade as production in this sector was also impacted by work stoppages related to COVD-19. Production stoppages in the transportation sector continued during April and are expected to impact exports and import levels in that month.

A report on Canada’s international trade in medical and protective goods was also released on May 5th. The analysis showed that exports of medical equipment and products, diagnostic products, and disinfectants and sterilization products were notably higher during the first three months of 2020 when compared to the same three-month period last year. By contrast, exports of personal protective equipment were down when compared to levels in the first quarter of 2019.

Imports of medical and protective equipment followed a different pattern. Imports of medical equipment and products, personal protective equipment, and disinfectants and sterilization products over the first three months of 2020 were lower than levels observed in the first quarter of 2019, while imports of diagnostic products rose substantially. The report is available on Statistics Canada’s website at COVID-19: A data perspective.

The latest edition of Canadian Economic News providing a concise summary of selected Canadian economic events, and international and financial market developments, with a focus on news related to the COVID-19 pandemic, is now available.

Weekly update - Friday, May 1, 2020

February’s GDP report, released on April 30th, highlighted major developments in the economy prior to the introduction of widespread restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19. Real gross domestic product was essentially unchanged in February, following three months of growth. Educational services fell sharply, reflecting rotating strikes by elementary and secondary school teachers in Ontario. Transportation services also declined in February, as rail blockades across the country impeded the movement of people and goods, while accommodation and food services declined as global travel restrictions related to COVID-19 expanded. At the same time, higher output in mining, conventional oil and gas extraction, and wholesale industries partly offset declines in other sectors.

On April 29th, the agency released data for three transportation and travel related programs covering February. With the release of February data, the tonnage of freight carried by Canadian railways increased by almost 6% from the same month in 2019. This increase was due to an unusually low volume of rail freight moved in February 2019, caused by extreme cold weather, derailments and the cap imposed on oil sands production by Alberta. When measured on a year-over-year basis, the impacts of COVID-19 were not yet discernible. Looking forward, Canada’s mainline railways are reducing costs and laying-off workers, anticipating volumes to plunge in a major way during the second quarter.

Itinerant aircraft take-offs and landings at Canadian airports in February were 9% higher than the same month in 2019. The growth was entirely driven by domestic traffic (up 11%) as transborder and international movements were essentially flat. Aircraft movements between Canada and China dropped by roughly 50% as Canada restricted flights between the two countries in late January. Consequently, the number of travellers from China declined by over one half, helping to push the total number of international arrivals to Canada from overseas countries down by 8.3% in February, the largest monthly decline in over twenty five years.

On April 29th, Statistics Canada also released data from a special survey of business conditions in March that highlighted the extent to which business operations have been impacted by measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. Nearly two thirds of businesses that responded to the survey reported being highly affected by lower demand for their products and services, while about one third of businesses reported that their revenues in the first quarter of 2020 were down by 40% or more from the first quarter of 2019.

Upcoming releases: On May 5th, Statistics Canada will release international merchandise trade for March and then, on May 8th, the Labour Force Survey for April.

Weekly update - Friday, April 24, 2020

March’s Consumer Price Index, released on April 22nd, highlighted the impact of sharp declines in energy prices on headline consumer inflation. Lower demand for oil as the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, coupled with tensions among oil-producing countries, pushed WTI benchmark crude prices from near USD $47 per barrel in early March to just over USD $20 per barrel at month’s end. Led by lower energy prices, the all-items CPI fell sharply from 2.2% in February to 0.9% in March, the largest year-over-year deceleration in the headline index since September 2006. Energy prices in March were 12% lower than in March of last year, reflecting the largest one-month decrease in energy prices since late 2008.

February’s wholesale and retail trade reports, released on April 20th and 21st, highlighted the impacts of COVID-19 and the domestic rail blockades on business activity during the month. As expected, the effects of these events were not as severe as what is anticipated for March data. Wholesalers reported that for February, sales fell by about $760 million due to these disruptions, with machinery and equipment and food wholesalers among those most affected. Despite these disruptions, overall wholesale sales rose by 0.7% in February, the third consecutive monthly increase. Without the impacts of COVID-19 and the rail blockades, wholesale sales in February would have risen by an estimated 1.5%.

In the case of retail sales, over one in ten retailers reported that both COVID-19 and the rail blockades negatively affected their sales in February, but these disruptions had little impact on overall retail sales, which advanced for the fourth consecutive month. While negative impacts on sales were more frequently reported by electronics and appliance store retailers and gasoline stations, some retailers, including sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores, and building material and garden equipment dealers, more commonly reported that these disruptions had a positive impact on sales in February.

Upcoming releases: On April 29th, Statistics Canada will release data for three transportation and travel related programs for reference month February: monthly railway carloadings, aircraft movement statistics, and travel between Canada and other countries.

Weekly update - Friday, April 17, 2020

On April 15th, the agency released a flash estimate of gross domestic product in March, designed to inform early assessments of the impact that business shutdowns and restrictions on physical distancing are having on overall economic activity. The decline in real GDP in March was estimated at 9%, the largest monthly decrease observed for the current data series (which tracks movements back to 1961). March’s flash estimate yields an approximate 2.6% decline in real GDP for the first quarter of 2020.

Canadian manufacturers faced two major challenges in February: the effects of supply chain disruptions stemming from COVID-19 related shutdowns in Asia, along with the impacts of domestic rail blockages that impeded the movement of many manufactured goods across the country.

Respondents to the Monthly Survey of Manufacturing reported that the combined impacts of the COVID-19 disruptions and the rail blockades lowered total manufacturing sales in February by an estimated $465 million. Overall, nearly one out of every ten establishments reported that their activities were impacted by COVID-19, with producers of textiles, petroleum and coal products, electrical appliances, and computers and electronic products being among the most affected. Similarly, just over one in ten establishments reported that their activities were affected by the rail blockades, led by producers of metals, chemicals and wood products.

Despite the impact of these events, overall manufacturing sales rose 0.5% in February, after declining for five consecutive months. Without these disruptions, total manufacturing sales would have risen by an estimated 1.3%.

Tourism was also greatly impacted by the pandemic. Two leading indicators were released that brought the immediate impact of COVID-19 on international travel into sharper focus—estimates of cross-border traveler volumes by automobile, and estimates of international arrivals to Canada by air, both released on April 14th. In March, the number of Americans entering Canada by automobile fell by 60% on a year-over-year basis, reflecting large declines in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. Similarly, the number of international visitors arriving in Canada by air in March was also down about 60% when compared to levels observed in March of last year. Both releases highlighted the rapid decline in travel volumes during the last half of the month.

Weekly update - Thursday, April 9, 2020

These articles provide commentary on data from major economic releases as they relate to the potential impacts of COVID-19. Articles will be released on a weekly basis as new data and analysis become available.

The employment report for March provided an initial assessment of the extent to which labour market activity was impacted as the COVID-19 pandemic was rapidly escalating. The reference week for March’s Labour Force Survey was the 15th to the 21st, a period in which many businesses and organizations were scaling-back or shutting down as states of emergency were being declared and restrictions on international travel were being put in place.

The reference week for the March survey basically overlaps the mid-month surge in the number of Employment Insurance applications, which reportedly totaled over 900,000 from the 16th to the 22nd. However, the reference week predates the mandated closures of non-essential businesses that several provinces, including Ontario and Quebec, enacted later in the month. Additional employment losses stemming from these mandated closures may not be fully reflected in the March survey data.

Employment fell by over one million in March (-1,011,000) with losses among private sector employees accounting for over 80% of the total decline. Overall losses were roughly split between full-time work (-474,000) and part-time work (-537,000). Employment among core-age persons, those aged 25 to 54, fell by 426,000.

The national unemployment rate increased by 2.2 percentage points in March to 7.8%. The employment rate, the percentage of the working age population that is employed, fell 3.3 percentage points to 58.5%. Among core-aged persons, the unemployment and employment rates in March were 6.6% and 80.2%, respectively.

The one-month decline in employment experienced in March is unprecedented, and is about two and a half times as large as the cumulative decline in employment experienced during the 2008-2009 recession. From September 2008 to June 2009, overall employment fell by 400,000, led by sharp declines in full-time work and private sector employees, as the unemployment rate rose from 6.1% to 8.7%. The employment rate over this nine-month period declined from 63.4% to 61.3%. Among core-aged persons, the unemployment rate rose to 7.6% while the employment rate remained at or above 80%.

Upcoming releases: Monthly Survey of Manufacturing, to be released April 16th.

The manufacturing report for February will include supplementary information designed to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rail blockades on manufacturing activity. The next weekly update will feature highlights from this report.

In addition, a leading indicator of cross-border travel for March as well as a leading indicator of international arrivals by air for the first quarter of 2020 will be released on April 14th.

Weekly update - Friday, April 3, 2020

These articles provide commentary on data from major economic releases as they relate to the potential impacts of COVID-19. Articles will be released on a weekly basis as new data and analysis become available.

The published economic data for January provide a baseline read on economic activity in Canada prior to the intensification of the COVID-19 crisis in recent months and February’s rail blockades. Many of the headline numbers in January pointed to stronger economic conditions to begin the year. Real GDP rose for the third consecutive month in January as goods-producing industries, led by higher output in non-automotive manufacturing, posted their largest monthly gain since August of last year. The output of services industries continued to advance, albeit at a slower pace, despite declines in transportation and educational services. Both total employment and payroll employment rose in January, while average weekly earnings, measured on a year-over-year basis, accelerated to 4.0% as earnings strengthened in most provinces.

January’s merchandise trade report offered some early insight into the initial impacts of COVID-19 on Canadian economic activity. Merchandise trade with China declined substantially in January as efforts to contain the virus in that country were intensifying and the impacts of factory shutdowns in China on global supply chains were being widely assessed. While much of the overall decrease in Canadian exports in January reflected lower shipments to the United States, exports to China declined 9.8%. At the same time, imports from China fell 12.7% as imports from the United States and South Korea increased.

The merchandise trade report for February, released on April 2nd, highlighted further declines in Canada-China trade, as exports to China fell an additional 6.4% while imports from China decreased 6.8%. Lower imports from China in February reflected declines in computers and peripherals, cellphones, and clothing and accessories. The February trade report also highlighted a notable decline in imports from South Korea, as efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in that country intensified.

Upcoming releases: Labour Force Survey for reference month March, to be released April 9th.

The intensification of the COVID-19 crisis and the rail blockades had no discernible impact on February’s employment report. Overall employment was little changed in February as total hours worked rose by 1.2%, supported by broad-based increases across industries. Data from March’s Labour Force Survey, to be released on April 9th, will provide an initial assessment of changes in labour market activity as the scope and breadth of the COVID-19 crisis in Canada were rapidly intensifying.

A special edition of the Canadian Economic News providing a concise summary of selected Canadian economic events, and international and financial market developments, with a focus on news related to the COVID-19 pandemic is now available.

Definitions
Real gross domestic product (chained (2012) dollars)
Gross domestic product at basic prices, all industries, chained (2012) dollars. Estimates of real GDP are seasonally adjusted at annual rates.
Statistics Canada table 36-10-0434-01.
Consumer Price Index (2002=100)
All-items consumer price index (2002=100), not adjusted for seasonality.
Statistics Canada table 18-10-0004-01.
Employment (persons)
Employment, both sexes, ages 15 and over, seasonally adjusted.
Statistics Canada table 14-10-0287-01.
International merchandise trade, exports (dollars)
International merchandise exports, total of all products, measured on a balance of payments basis, current dollars, seasonally adjusted.
Statistics Canada table 12-10-0121-01.
International merchandise trade, imports (dollars)
International merchandise imports, total of all products, measured on a balance of payments basis, current dollars, seasonally adjusted.
Statistics Canada table 12-10-0121-01.
Retail trade sales (dollars)
Retail sales, current dollars, seasonally adjusted.
Statistics Canada table 20-10-0008-01.
Actual hours worked at main job (hours)
Total actual hours worked, all industries, seasonally adjusted.
Statistics Canada table 14-10-0289-01.
Manufacturers' sales (dollars)
Sales of goods manufactured, current dollars, seasonally adjusted.
Statistics Canada table 16-10-0047-01.
Aircraft itinerant movements, domestic (number of flights)
Arrival and departure within Canada at airports with NAV CANADA towers.
Statistics Canada table 23-10-0008-01.
Aircraft itinerant movements, transborder (number of flights)
Arrival and/or departure between Canada and the United States at airports with NAV CANADA towers.
Statistics Canada table 23-10-0008-01.
Aircraft itinerant movements, other international (number of flights)
Arrival and/or departure between Canada and a country other than the United States at airports with NAV CANADA towers.
Statistics Canada table 23-10-0008-01.
Railway carloadings (tonnes)
Total freight traffic carried (intermodal, non-intermodal and from U.S. connections).
Statistics Canada table 23-10-0216-01.
Travellers from the United States (persons)
Travellers from the United States, seasonally adjusted.
Statistics Canada table 24-10-0005-01.
Travellers from other countries (persons)
Travellers from countries other than the United States, seasonally adjusted.
Statistics Canada table 24-10-0005-01.
Canadian residents returning from United States (persons)
Canadian travellers returning from the United States, seasonally adjusted.
Statistics Canada table 24-10-0005-01.
Canadian residents returning from other countries (persons)
Canadian travellers returning from countries other than the United States, seasonally adjusted.
Statistics Canada table 24-10-0005-01.
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