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Canada’s job market is recovering slowly from high unemployment numbers caused by the onset of the pandemic, but for these workers and hundreds of thousands like them, the recovery can’t pick up quickly enough

Analysis: Eight charts that explain Canada’s uneven job recovery

Marcia Mittoo, 51, Toronto

Marcia Mittoo plans to start her own business.handout

I lost two jobs in March. I was a server in two different restaurants, and I’ve been slammed by this thing every which way. Before this, I lived quite comfortably. Now, no one cares that my car is one payment away from being taken away from me. No one cares that with my rent, I’m one month away from losing my home. My RRSP is almost down to zero, my tax-free savings account is down to zero because I can’t live my normal life.

I was a single mother. I raised two kids by working hard. We were never homeless or hungry, and now I’m going to be homeless and hungry because I can’t go to work? I have an elderly mother, and I have to make sure I get her groceries every week. If I lose my car, how do I help my mother?

I have tried to get numerous jobs since the pandemic. Two people hired me, and I got a little excited about it. One didn’t call me back to give me my schedule. The second one called me back to say, “Unfortunately, I’ve changed my mind.” This was after going through the paperwork. Is it because I’m Black? Is it because I’m 51 years old? They don’t know my experience. They don’t know I’m an amazing bartender, I’m an amazing server, I’m an amazing cook. I’m a hard, loyal worker.

Now I’d like to start my own business. I’d love to get a food truck. I’m very creative in the kitchen, and I specialize in Canadian and Jamaican cuisine. I put myself out there, I have an Instagram page. That’s my plan.

Steve Hardy, 57, Calgary

Petrographer Steve Hardy has plenty of oil and gas experience, but is willing to take a job in another field.Handout

I’m a petrographer, so that’s someone who looks at drill cuttings and core for oil and gas exploration, and I’ve been doing it for about 30 years. The third week in March, I got the call saying, “We’re letting you go.” I started looking for work right away. But the job pool is quite slim here in Calgary. I ended up applying to be a school bus driver, and I’m working for them now on a part-time basis.

It’s tough when you’re making three digits, and you’re down to two. It’s tough on the family. My wife is working, thank God. We’ve got two kids, one in university and one in high school. We’re scraping by. We have food on the table. We deferred our mortgage payments, but we are selling our house to downsize.

I did look for oil and gas jobs, but you’re fighting with thousands of other people. I put résumés out to companies, and I never even got a response back. I’m willing to take a job anywhere. I’m trying to find something in mining, but I don’t have any mining experience. Mine is all oil and gas. I’m applying all over the place. I’ve got to woo somebody into giving me a chance.

Nirlep Bains, 54, Ladner, B.C.

Nirlep Bains enjoyed meeting people from around the world at her restaurant job at the Vancouver airport.handout

I was working at the Vancouver airport in a restaurant at the international gate. On March 18, we got laid off. I was home when I received the phone call from my manager. I was shocked. I couldn’t sleep for days. The second week – my daughter also works at the airport, and she got laid off. It was a nightmare for us. I’ve been there for 14 years. I loved doing my job, and you meet people from all around the world every day. Now I have to start over again, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to get something in the same field. I’m just requesting the company, HMSHost, to give us a call to go back to work. I’ve been looking for jobs at restaurants, for cashiers, that kind of stuff. I haven’t heard anything yet. It’s like I have no future now.

Lindsay Christopher, 23, Toronto

Lindsay Christopher will study for a year as a way to pick up skills while she waits out the pandemic’s disruption of the entertainment industry.handout

I was a full-time production manager at a casting house for commercials. As the pandemic got worse, all of our productions shut down and there was no work. So my co-worker and I, we’re both contractors, got let go toward the end of April. I’m not back at the office, but she is. I had already been figuring out other things, and I actually started my next position the day I was laid off. It was just happenstance. It was a freelance contract, and it was definitely a step down, but I wasn’t out of work completely.

I decided that since I was going to be out of full-time work for a while, I would go back and get another degree. So I enrolled for a masters of digital media. I don’t see the job market in the entertainment industry coming back for at least another year. I’ll be graduating next August, and I’m hoping that aligns with when things are able to start filming again.

Naden Abenes, 52, Richmond, B.C.

Naden Abenes worries being out of work could cost her her health, her financial stability – even her dogs.handout

I was a full-time room attendant at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver, and March 15 was our last day. I’m looking for jobs, it’s just that right now, it’s all part-time. They don’t want to hire full-time and they don’t want to offer benefits. How can you survive on that? The province is offering training to become a care worker, so I’m just waiting, I put in my name.

I’ve lost a lot of weight. My anxiety got worse, and probably I’m depressed. I have trouble sleeping. I have asthma, I have arthritis. I need my medications and I have to skip some of them because I cannot afford it. Before, all my prescriptions were actually free.

Some of my friends, they’re giving me food to help me out. I’m blessed that way for now. But for how long? They’re in the same situation. I’ve had to borrow money from my brother a couple of times to stay afloat, but I don’t want to keep borrowing because he has a family. I don’t like to owe money, I have to pay all that back.

I cannot afford where I’m living right now. I’ve packed my belongings, so when the time comes I’m not going to be overwhelmed. I live alone, I only have my two chihuahuas. I’ve been asking people about a room share, but they don’t allow pets. BC Housing told me they’re really short on housing, and asked me, “Are you willing to give your pets away?” That really upset me. They help me ease my anxiety. You know how puppies are. That’s the only joy I have.

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