Insights into COVID-19’s Impact

The Labour Force Survey (LFS), conducted by Statistics Canada, is the source of monthly employment estimates for Canadian industries. The monthly LFS sample size is approximately 56,000 households, covering 100,000 individuals.

Tourism HR Canada receives customized LFS tables that follow the Tourism Satellite Account’s definition of tourism. This allows Tourism HR Canada to track employment and unemployment in the tourism sector and compare it with the overall economy.

This customized LFS data, publicly available LFS data, and other data sources on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and mobility were used to develop the following month-by-month charts that track the impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s tourism sector. In addition to this ongoing tracking, we summarize the key points for each month, including March and April.

You can receive monthly updates by subscribing to our bi-weekly newsletter, Tourism HR Insider.

Note: Tourism HR Canada’s customized labour force survey data is seasonally unadjusted. Therefore, comparisons to the overall employment and unemployment rates also utilize unadjusted data. For that reason, total employment and unemployment numbers may differ from those reported elsewhere.

Tourism Employment

Chart one tracks the total number of individuals employed in Canada’s tourism sector for each month of 2020 and compares it to monthly employment in 2019.

Users can select data for Canada or each province at the right-hand side of the chart.

Monthly Insight: The number of individuals employed in tourism decreased by 433,100 in April, following a decrease of 448,600 in March. Since COVID-19 shutdowns began, tourism employment has decreased by 881,700, or 43.3%.

Chart One: Tourism Employment by Province

Chart two displays the same employment information but for each of the five industry groups that make up the tourism sector.

Monthly Insight: From March to April, the biggest drop in employment occurred in the food & beverage services industry, dropping by 244,800, following a drop of 487,700 in March. Because the industry groups in tourism vary in size, looking at the percentage decrease in employment gives a more equitable picture of how hard each one has been hit by employment decreases. In April, employment in food & beverage services decreased 33.9% from March, followed by accommodations (-32.8%), travel services (-23.2%), recreation & entertainment (-20.1%), and transportation (-18.9%).

Chart Two: Tourism Employment by Industry Group

Please note that data for each industry group by province is available, but there is high variability in monthly industry group data at the provincial level. To request data, please email

Unemployment Rate

Chart 3 displays the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate for tourism and the overall labour force, comparing the unemployment rate for 2020 to the unemployment rate for 2019, nationally and by province. Monthly unemployment rates for each industry group are also available. Under normal circumstances, tourism’s unemployment rate trends downward as the summer season approaches.

Note that Canadians are only counted as unemployed if they are actively seeking another job. While the number of Canadians employed in tourism has fallen 880,000 since February, the number considered “unemployed” only increased by 342,800. This shows that many have decided that actively seeking work is untenable, or they are waiting for their employer to reopen so they can be rehired. Because of the suddenness of job losses and uniqueness of the current labour market, the unemployment rate is only telling part of the story. As restrictions lift, businesses open, and emergency benefits are scaled back, the unemployment rate will become a better indicator of the health of the labour market.

Monthly Insight: The unemployment rate in tourism skyrocketed to 28.2% in April, up from 15.8% in March and 5.7% in February. The unemployment rate is highest in the accommodations industry, followed by followed by food and beverage services (34.3%), recreation and entertainment (28.0%), travel services (22.3%) and transportation (14.8%).

Chart 3: Tourism Unemployment Rate

Total Actual Hours Worked

Chart 4 displays the total number of actual hours worked in each sector for Canada and each province. Unfortunately, this data is not available for the tourism sector as a whole, however the Accommodation & Food Services and Information, Cultural & Recreation sectors can act as a good proxy for tourism. The total number of hours worked helps indicate the amount of demand occurring in sectors where employees may have been kept on staff, thanks to the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy, but are not being utilized to their full capacity.

Users can select any of the sixteen sectors individually or select multiple sectors using the CTRL or Command button. Data is available for Canada and each province. Data can be toggled between a line graph and a bar chart. The line graph shows data for the year 2019 to allow year-over-year comparisons of monthly hours worked by sector.

Monthly Insight: The reduction in employment and increase in unemployment rates does not fully capture the slowdown occurring in tourism. This was particularly notable in March, when many tourism employees were still working but with reduced hours. For example, from February to March, employment in Accommodation & Food Services dropped 23.7%, but hours worked decreased 44.4%. In April, the gap between reduction in employment and hours did close somewhat, but the reduction in total hours worked is still greater. In February, Accommodation & Food Services employees worked over 31 million hours. In April, they worked just over 10.9 million hours, a decrease of 65.0% over the two months. Over the same period, employment in that sector decreased 49.3%. Similarly, in Information, Cultural & Recreation, actual hours worked have dropped 39.0%, while employment has dropped 24.3%.

Chart 4: Actual Hours Worked by Sector (monthly)

Gross Domestic Product

Chart 5 shows total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from all sources for fourteen tourism-related industries. On average, the GDP from tourism spending is around 2.0% of Canada’s total GDP. However, that number is only from tourism activities (both domestic and international). It does not account for money spent by locals at tourism businesses like restaurants or recreation facilities. The following chart shows total GDP from all sources. It compares the monthly GDP for 2019 and 2020. Please note that there is a longer lag time to receive GDP data than labour force data. GDP data for March will be available in early June.

Users can select each industry individually or select multiple industries using the CTRL or Command function to see the total GDP of those industries.

Monthly Insight: As of February, GDP in tourism industries was 2.1% higher than the same month last year and just slightly higher than January 2020.

Chart 5: Gross Domestic Product (monthly)

Employment by Age Group

Chart six displays monthly employment for the entire labour force by age group. Over 30% of the jobs in tourism are filled by people aged 15 to 24. This age group has seen the largest employment losses due to COVID-19. This chart shows the number of individuals employed in the entire economy by age group by month, comparing data for 2019 and 2020, and can be cross-tabulated by gender. It is separated by region. Use the toggle buttons at the bottom to view the charts for a specific province.

Monthly Insight: While employment is dropping across all age groups, it is dropping particularly fast for young people. Employment across all sectors for those ages 15 to 24 dropped 21.9% from March to April. The total drop from February to April was 34.7%, a total employment loss of over 830,000. Young people also make up a large part of the increased hiring that usually occurs in the tourism sector leading into the summer months.

Chart 6: Employment by Age and Gender (monthly)


The final chart displays data on mobility, provided by Google. These weekly updates show how often (relative to a baseline of zero) individuals in Canada are going to parks or retail and recreation environments. While attendance in both categories has dropped since March, the low point for parks was reached in mid-April and attendance has increased since then.

Note that this data does not indicate what people are doing at parks—most park access is limited to people walking through, as recreational activities are banned.

Attendance at retail and recreation locations hit its low point on April 12th; there have been slow signs of recovery as of May 5th.

Chart 7: Mobility Changes (Parks and Retail & Recreation)

canada_govThis project is funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program


The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

Source: Adapted from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. This does not constitute an endorsement by Statistics Canada of this product.