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Canada lost 200,000 jobs in January as Omicron hit hard

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Canada’s economy lost 200,000 jobs last month, according to Statistics Canada, as COVID-19 shutdowns related to the Omicron variant saw many businesses close up shop.

The data agency reported Friday that the decline pushed the unemployment rate up half a per cent, to 6.5 per cent.

Most of the job losses were concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, two provinces that saw some of the hardest and earliest surges of the Omicron-driven wave, and which both moved to lock down in reaction.

On top of those who lost jobs entirely, the number of people who reported they worked less than half of their normal hours also skyrocketed, up by 620,000 people during the month.

As was the case during previous waves, accommodation and food services bore the brunt of the job losses, with 113,000 jobs lost during the month. Retail was also hit, losing 26,000 workers.

Economists had been expecting a bleak figure, but the 200,000 lost jobs was roughly twice what they were anticipating.

Almost one-quarter of all workers said they worked exclusively at home during the month. The numbers also hint at just how widespread the virus was in January: 10 per cent of all employees were absent from their job due to illness or disability during the month, Statistics Canada said.

CBC/MS

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