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 each month:

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 1 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. Additional graphs can be selected using the arrow at the bottom of the chart window. Graphs two and three show employment levels relative to other provinces. Graph four shows the month-over-month change in employment (orange bars) and the year-to-date change in employment compared to December 2019 (blue bars). Graph five breaks out the month-over-month change in employment by employment type (full-time or part-time).

Monthly Insight: Tourism employment declined for the fifth month in a row, shedding 135,300 jobs, a total decrease of almost 300,000 jobs since August. Tourism employment is over 593,000 jobs fewer than in January 2020.

Chart 1: Tourism Employment by Province

Chart 2 displays the same employment information but for each of the five industry groups that make up the tourism sector. Additional graphs can be selected using the arrow at the bottom of the chart. Graph two shows the amount of monthly employment in each industry group relative to each other. Graph three shows the month-over-month change in employment (orange bars) and the year-to-date change in employment compared to December 2019 (blue bars). Graph four breaks out the month-over-month change in employment by employment type (full-time or part-time).

Monthly Insight: All tourism industry groups lost employment in January. The accommodation industry saw employment decrease by 18.5% and the number of employed individuals fall below 100,000. The transportation industry added 7,200 part-time jobs and the travel services industry added 900 part-time jobs, but these were offset by the loss of full-time jobs.

Chart 2: 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 tourism unemployment rate rose for a second straight month in January, to 18.6%. This is 12.8 percentage points higher than it was in January 2020. All tourism industry groups reported higher unemployment rates than the same month last year.

Chart 3: Tourism Unemployment Rate

Tourism Business Openings and Closures

Statistics Canada produces estimates of the number of business openings and closures each month. In addition, this data tracks the number active businesses, defined as “those businesses that reported having one or more employees in a given month”.

Data for the tourism sector was recently added to the data set, allowing us to track the ongoing number of active business in our sector. Chart 4 presents this data, which can be tailored by industry group and by province for which data is available.

The data does not distinguish between a permanent closure or a temporary closure due to seasonality.

Monthly Insight: The tourism sector has not just seen a significant decline in employment, but also a significant decline in the number of active businesses. Regardless of whether they are permanently or temporarily closed, there were far fewer active tourism businesses operating this summer, although some businesses reopened going into the fall. In February of 2020, there were 78,044 active tourism business. As of October, there were 70,064 active tourism businesses, a decline of 10% from before the pandemic.

Please note: the data shown are seasonally adjusted experimental estimates of business openings and closures. Data is revised monthly. Recent months may contain data points that should be used with caution. For further information, email

Chart 4: Tourism Business Openings and Closures

Entry and Exit from the Tourism Labour Force

Chart 5 looks at the total number of individuals entering or leaving the tourism labour force on a month-over-month basis (graph 1) and on a year-to-date basis with December 2019 as the anchor point. The tourism labour force is the total number of individuals who are employed in tourism plus the total number of unemployed individuals seeking work whose last job was in the tourism sector. The overall labour force number is important because it shows the total number of experienced tourism workers who are available to work in the sector. Decreases in the labour force can be due to either employment dropping (and those unemployed workers choosing not to seek work) or unemployed tourism workers finding jobs in other industries.

Monthly Insight: The tourism labour force (the total of all employed and unemployed tourism workers) shrank again in January, marking the fifth consecutive month of decline. September’s decrease would primarily be due to student workers returning to school. (If they do not seek other employment, they are not considered part of the labour force.) The declines since then may be caused by workers who were laid off due to increased COVID-19 restrictions and are waiting for previous jobs to return, and are therefore not seeking new employment. However, it is also possible that those workers are moving to other jobs in other industries–which is cause for concern when travel is permitted again, as businesses may be unable to reopen due to lack of staff.

Chart 5: Workforce Entry and Exit

Total Actual Hours Worked

Chart 6 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 total actual hours worked in tourism-related sectors continued to fall in January. Additionally, the number of actual hours worked continues to be well below normal levels. In December, accommodation and food services employees worked 19.4 million hours, 10.7 million fewer than they worked in the same month last year. Workers in the information, culture and recreation sector worked 1.7 million fewer hours than in January 2020.

Chart 6: Actual Hours Worked by Sector (monthly)

Gross Domestic Product

Chart 7 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.

The default setting shows total GDP across the entire Canadian economy. Users can select each of the tourism-related industries individually or select multiple industries using the CTRL or Command function to see the total GDP of those industries.

Monthly Insight: Gross Domestic Product in tourism-related industries grew slightly in November, to $63.5 billion, but this only reached 62.0% of its January 2020 levels. Some industries, such as food services, were doing slightly better, but were still down significantly, while others, such as air transportation, remain down by more than 80%.

Chart 7: Gross Domestic Product (monthly)

Employment by Age Group and Gender

Chart 8 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: The overall employment level for young people aged 15 to 24 fell again in January. This age group remains the hardest-hit in terms of employment loss since the pandemic began, with employment losses greater for young women than for young men. Employment for males aged 15 to 24 decreased 10.7% compared to the same month in 2020, while employment for females of the same age was down 18.7%.

Chart 8: Employment by Age and Gender (monthly)

Employment by Occupational and Industry Earnings

Chart 9 shows the monthly change in employment levels broken down by average annual earnings for occupations across all industries (two-digit NOC code) and for each tourism related industry (4-digit NAICS code). The occupations and industries are grouped by the average earnings employees in those occupations and industries make. Earnings are grouped by those earning less than $30,000; $30,000 to $50,000; $50,000 to $80,000; and over $80,000.

The data shows that initial employment losses (March and April) were heavily concentrated in occupations where workers earn less than $50,000 a year on average. Within tourism industries, early employment losses were most pronounced within industries with average annual earnings below $30,000.

Monthly Insight: Compared to February 2020, the number of employed individuals in occupations with an average earning of over $80,000 per year has increased. However, employment in all other earnings categories decreased or remained flat, with the lowest income category (less than $30,000 per year) seeing significant losses. For tourism-related occupations, all earning categories have decreased, but here too the lowest earnings category has seen by far the most employment losses.

Chart 9: Occupation Employment Change Compared to February 2020

Economic Indicators

Underlying the employment trends are a number of economic indicators. In Chart 10, graphs one to four show data drawn from Statistics Canada’s data on travel between Canada and other countries. Graph one shows the number of non-resident travellers entering Canada (from the U.S. and from all other countries), which includes all travellers crossing the border who are travelling to Canada for a period of less than 12 months. Graph two shows the number of tourists entering Canada. International tourists are a subset of travellers, whose trip includes one or more overnight stays. Graphs three and four compare the number of travellers and tourists from the U.S. and from other countries. Graph five shows the percentage of travellers to Canada who are tourists.

Graphs six and seven show data drawn from the monthly operating statistics of major Canadian airlines. The graphs show airlines’ total operating revenues and the total number of passengers per month, both of which have dropped precipitously. Graph eight shows the number of aircraft movements at airports with NAV Canada towers. Aircraft movement data is more current than data for operating revenue and monthly passenger movements. It shows a recovery of domestic aircraft movement over the summer, but international and transborder movements have shown no recovery since April.

Graph nine draws on data from STR to show the average weekly occupancy rate at hotels across Canada, which has steadily climbed since early April to reach 41.8% by mid August. The final graph shows the total number of sales at food service and drinking establishments in Canada by month and region.

Monthly Insight: Since reaching their lowest point since May right around Christmas, occupancy rates at Canadian hotels have risen slightly. Sales in the food and beverage services industry rebounded over the summer, but decreased by $1.2 billion between August and November. Total airline passengers on major Canadian airlines had slowly between April and August, but have since fallen again. Travel to Canada by U.S. and non-U.S. tourists remained minimal.

Chart 10: Economic Indicators


Chart 11 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: Visits to parks saw a slight uptick over the holiday season, but began a decline again through January. Meanwhile, visits to retail and recreation venues saw sharp declines as stricter restrictions were put into place in many regions, and have since remained flat.

Chart 11: Mobility Changes (Parks and Retail & Recreation)

Additional Tourism Resources

For information on global tourism, visit the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s Global Tourism Dashboard.

For information on demand for tourism from Canada’s major markets and the current Canadian sentiment to welcoming visitors from abroad, check out Destination Canada’s COVID-19 Research.

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.