Canada jobs report shows staggering losses for trucking from COVID-19

A tractor-trailer from Nova Scotia-based W.R. Bolivar Transport in Toronto, Canada

It just keeps getting worse for Canada’s trucking industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as freight volumes recover, the job losses are staggering.

Canada’s transportation and warehousing sector shed 102,800 jobs in April, or about 10.4% of the workforce, federal jobs data released Friday shows. Canada shed about 2 million jobs, or 11% of its sector-wide workforce during the month, bringing the total to 3 million since February.

“The truth of it is we’re not immune from the impacts of COVID-19,” Jonathan Blackham, the Canadian Trucking Alliance’s director of public policy and public affairs, told FreightWaves.

While it’s impossible to know how many of the transportation and warehousing sector job losses came from trucking companies, they account for the largest share of jobs in the sector in Statistics Canada’s monthly Labour Force Survey.

The CTA is pressing the Canadian government for additional support for the trucking sector. The industry group on Friday will begin pushing for changes to the government’s emergency wage subsidy program for companies impacted by COVID-19. 

Nearly 50% of carriers surveyed by CTA report not qualifying for the subsidy, which covers up to 75% of wages. Qualifying companies need to show a 15% decline in revenue in March and 40% drop in subsequent months.

“Drawing a perfect line the sand at 30% leaves a lot of carriers out,”  Blackham said. “We think a more scaled approach makes sense.”

The CTA will be joining a larger chorus of industry groups calling for changes to the program. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday that the subsidy will extend beyond June

Carriers large and small have temporarily laid off drivers and other personnel. Two of Canada’s largest trucking and logistics companies, TFI International and Mullen Group, revealed cuts in their fourth-quarter earnings.

The CTA has already asked the federal government for trucking-specific deferral of payroll taxes to preserve cash flow during the pandemic. Even as freight volumes continue to recover, depressed spot rates, lane imbalances and payment delays are hitting carriers hard.

While April’s labor statistics paint a bleak picture for Canada, the losses came in less severe than expected.

“If there is a silver lining in today’s report it is that it could have been worse,” TD Bank Senior Economist Brian DePratto wrote in a research note Friday.

The job losses also predate the implementation of a federal wage subsidy program. Applications for the subsidy only opened on April 27.

May’s report likely will show some of those losses reversed as the subsidy kicks in.