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.

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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: Tourism employment increased in all provinces in June, rising by 243,900. This followed May’s increase of 83,900. However, employment in tourism was still 668,300 jobs lower than in June 2019.

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: In June, employment increased in all five industry groups that make up the tourism sector. Employment increased in Accommodations (24,200), Food and Beverage Services (144,500), Recreation and Entertainment (58,400), Transportation (15,000), and Travel Services (1,800).

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: While the tourism unemployment rate declined, it remained high at 25.0% despite a large jump in employment. By industry group, the unemployment rate was highest in the Accommodations industry (30.3%). By province, the unemployment rate was highest in Prince Edward Island (32.1%).

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 hours worked in the accommodation & food services and information, culture & recreation sectors continues to be greater than the reduction in employment. However, the gap is narrowing. Accommodation & food services employees worked 20.2 million hours in June, while workers in information, culture & recreation worked 18.7 million hours.

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.

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: GDP data for April shows significant declines in the industries that make up tourism. Month-over-month GDP declined by 12.6% from March to April. Year-over-year GDP declined 19.0% relative to April 2019.

Chart 5: Gross Domestic Product (monthly)

Employment by Age Group and Gender

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: In June, despite two months of increases, employment for 15- to 24-year-olds remained 9.5% lower than it did in February. This remained the greatest decrease in employment by age group alongside those over 65 (also down 9.5% since February). The over-65 age group saw smaller percentage decreases in employment in March and April, but have also seen a much more tepid employment recovery in May and June.

Employment levels for male and female workers increased by roughly the same percentage in June. For females who were under the age of 25, however, the rebound in employment was much stronger than it was for males of the same age.

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. Note that this data does not indicate what people are doing at parks.

Monthly Insight: The number of individuals accessing parks continued to increase throughout the month of June. Attendance at retail and recreation locations continued a slow increase, but remained well below February levels.

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.