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More than 50% of Canadian companies have lost at least one-fifth of their revenue to COVID-19, StatsCan says

More than half of the companies in Canada have lost at least 20 per cent of their revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic, new numbers from Statistics Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce suggest.

Between April 3 and 24, more than 12,600 Canadian companies responded to a questionnaire on Statistics Canada’s website regarding how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their business.

The results offer a glimpse of the devastation that the coronavirus has caused.

Nearly one-third — 32.3 per cent — of businesses have lost 40 per cent of their revenues during the pandemic. A further 21.2 per cent said revenues were down by at least 20 per cent.

All in all, more than 80 per cent of businesses across the country reported a “medium to high” drop in demand for their products or services.

While the pandemic has hit all types of companies in all corners of Canada, the pain has not been felt evenly across the economy.

Businesses in the accommodation and food services sector were most likely to have felt the pinch, followed by entertainment and recreation and retail trade. More than 60 per cent of businesses in those parts of the economy reported losing at least one-fifth of their usual revenue.

On the other end of the spectrum, more than 40 per cent of businesses in each of the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and the utilities sectors reported either no change or an increase in revenue.

Provincial breakdown

The economic impact of COVID-19 was equally uneven geographically, too.

More than half of all businesses in Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan reported losing at least one-fifth of their revenue.

But almost one-third of companies in P.E.I, the territories and New Brunswick reported either no change or an increase in revenue.

And even in places that are faring comparatively better, companies are still laying people off, or cutting salaries and hours for the workers they retain.

Economist Brendon Bernard with staffing firm Indeed.com noted that while job cuts and wage rollbacks are common, a small sliver of employers reported that they had in fact increased staff compensation since the pandemic started, notably companies in retail and health care, where demand for some products and services is continuing at a swift pace.

Reasons for optimism

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce collaborated with Statistics Canada to collect the data released Wednesday, and the group that calls itself Canada’s largest business association says the numbers show just how dire the situation is. 

“The data clearly shows thousands of businesses are quickly approaching permanent closures,” Stratton said, but he added that the situation is not hopeless.

Companies are surviving and adapting on the fly, with 20 per cent reporting they’ve changed their production process to stay open during the pandemic, more than 40 per cent saying they are testing out ways their employees can work from home, and 60 per cent saying they hope they’ll be able to get back to normal within one month of physical distancing measures being removed.

“We are now six weeks into the shutdown, which is too late for many, but countless companies can still be saved if we move fast enough to help them,” he said.

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