Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A big, second-wave-of-pandemic shoe is about to fall on Canada’s remarkable labour-market recovery. We just won’t know it - at least, not from official statistics - until early January.

Capital Economics senior Canada economist Stephen Brown issued a report this week warning that while next week’s Canadian employment report from Statistics Canada will likely show a seventh straight month of job growth after the spring lockdowns, the streak will end in December - and end big. By his calculations, we’re headed for a 150,000-job decline in the last month of the year.

Merry Christmas.

Story continues below advertisement

Broadly speaking, the main thrust of Mr. Brown’s message is pretty intuitive. It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to see that a new wave of COVID-related business restrictions and shutdowns in major Canadian cities will have a serious effect on certain segments of the labour market, having already witnessed the profound impact of lockdowns last spring. But the precision of Mr.

Brown’s pessimistic forecast stems in large part from an analysis of a non-traditional data source that, in the COVID-19 era, has emerged as a valuable realtime economic indicator: online restaurant reservations.

Mr. Brown showed that throughout the pandemic, the employment trend in the accommodation and food services sector has mirrored - remarkably closely - the volume of restaurant bookings tracked by reservations app and website OpenTable. He also noted that OpenTable restaurant visits peaked in September and have been in decline ever since - even before new viruscontainment restrictions came into effect in some of Canada’s biggest markets.

He said the OpenTable trend since October - the most recently reported month of Canadian employment data, predating the recent more severe restrictions - suggests that we’re on track to lose “a further 150,000 to 200,000” jobs in accommodation and food services by the end of the year. While another alternative data source (online job postings on app/website Indeed) indicates that employment looks likely to still grow in other parts of the economy that aren’t affected by the newest lockdown orders, that won’t be enough to outweigh the big downturn in restaurant jobs. The labour market is headed for its first serious setback of the recovery - and, Mr. Brown says, looks likely to end 2020 down 670,000 jobs compared with the end of 2019.

The analysis highlights the increased value in using high-tech data, often available in real time, to get a handle on the rapid pace of change in consumer and business activity during this pandemic. In the spring, many economists turned to data sources such as online restaurant reservations, mobility tracking, road-traffic volume, credit-card transactions and online job postings to shed light on economic trends much more quickly than they could via traditional economic indicators, many of which aren’t published until a month or two after the fact.

With the second wave upon us, those same economists are now relying on these fast-tracking data sources to provide advance warning signals for what’s on the road ahead.

Among the traditional economic indicators, employment figures are actually among the fastest to be released - figures for a given month are typically released on the first or second Friday of the next month. (Statscan will report November employment on Dec. 4.) But even then, the data reflect a survey taken around mid-month; they are several weeks behind the curve by the time they are released for public consumption.

Story continues below advertisement

The October labour force survey - gathered the week of Oct. 1117, published on Nov. 6 - showed a drop of 48,000 jobs in accommodation and food services. Not good, but still manageable in a labour force of 20 million; overall employment was still up, and the blow to the restaurant and hospitality sector was actually a bit softer than many people had feared.

But the OpenTable data tell us that the October number was just the tip of the iceberg. Mr. Brown’s analysis indicates that “more than 100,000 jobs” in the sector were at risk even before Toronto - Canada’s biggest city - imposed further dining shutdowns this week.

With tighter restrictions now in place, the trend looks about to get worse. Mr. Brown noted that on Monday - the first day of the tougher rules for Toronto and nearby suburban Peel Region - reservations were down 72 per cent from the same time last year, compared with 49 per cent in the first half of November.

That deeper impact will have come too late for the November labour survey. Mr. Brown believes there is enough strength in labour demand in other sectors - as the Indeed online-job-posting data suggest - to produce a “modest rise” in overall employment in the month.

But the writing is on the wall - or, more precisely, on OpenTable - for the December data, due out in early January. In a highly uneven labour recovery, the rising pandemic restrictions are about to tip the balance toward the hardest-hit sectors, as surely as winter is about to tip the thermometer into the negative. And for the country’s restaurateurs and their employees, it could mark the beginning of a harsh winter indeed.

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies