Briefing Note on the Retail Trade Jobs at Risk in Niagara from the COVID-19 Pandemic – April 20, 2020

Home COVID-19Briefing Note on the Retail Trade Jobs at Risk in Niagara from the COVID-19 Pandemic – April 20, 2020

As part of NWPB’s efforts to provide updates on the impact of COVID-19, this briefing note outlines the known and potential impacts of this pandemic on the retail trade industry.

Local retail employers have already felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic through physical distancing practices, increased dependency on online sales and fulfillment, and policies regarding the closure of non-essential businesses. To gauge these impacts, the Niagara Economic Rapid Response Team recently conducted a survey assessing employer experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. When retail employers were asked whether COVID-19 has impacted their operations, 97.7% of those that responded to the question indicated that their business were impacted. Approximately 92.3% of responding employers indicated they had lost revenue because of this virus. When estimating the extent of revenue loss, the largest portion of employers indicated that they had lost between 76-100% of revenue between March 1, 2020 and the survey collection period (March 20-30, 2020). The full breakdown is noted below.[1]

Estimated March Revenue Loss for Retail Employers

Employers reporting
1 to 25% revenue loss
Employers reporting
26 to 50% revenue loss
Employers reporting
51 to 75% revenue loss
Employers reporting
76 to 100% revenue loss

Data from the March Labour Force Survey noted 2,600 fewer people working in the wholesale and retail trade industry between February 2020 and March 2020. Though these data do not speak only to retail trade, it does point to employment declines in the general sector. Keeping in mind that some retail is defined as an essential service (e.g., grocery stores), it will be important to continue monitoring both employment levels and job demand in this sector that has seen significant business slowdowns.

Niagara housed an estimated 25,295 retail trade jobs in the 2019 calendar year, including both full-time and part-time jobs.[2] Given current trends in business and service shutdowns, some elements of retail trade are likely to face continuing disruption due to the COVID-19 virus, while others struggle to meet labour demand. Overall, retail trade jobs represent an estimated 13.6% of total jobs in Niagara.

Niagara also housed 2,363 self-employed retail trade jobs throughout 2019. These individuals are also likely to face continued disruption due to COVID-19. These retail trade jobs represent an estimated 7.3% of total self-employment jobs in Niagara.

Retail Trade Subsectors
Niagara, 2019
Employed % Employed %Self-employedSelf-employed %
Food & beverage stores6,93527.4%45219.1%
Clothing & clothing accessories stores3,50013.8%27611.7%
General merchandise stores3,20812.7%441.8%
Motor vehicle & parts dealers2,59510.3%2018.5%
Health & personal care stores2,4229.6%492.1%
Miscellaneous store retailers1,8557.3%80033.9%
Building material & garden equipment & supplies dealers1,5376.1%652.8%
Sporting goods, hobby, book & music stores1,0854.3%652.8%
Furniture & home furnishings stores9143.6%1305.5%
Gasoline stations6002.4%190.8%
Electronics & appliance stores4241.7%140.6%
Non-store retailers2190.9%24810.5%
Total Retail Trade25,295100.0%2,363100.0%
Source: EMSI Analyst, 2019.3 dataset, employees and self-employed

Combining data for employed and self-employment jobs show that Niagara housed 27,658 retail trade jobs in the 2019 calendar year. These jobs represent approximately 12.6% of all jobs in Niagara.

Retail Trade Subsectors – Niagara, 2019 Jobs (employed + self-employed)Jobs % (employed + self-employed)
Food & beverage stores7,38726.7%
Clothing & clothing accessories stores3,77613.7%
General merchandise stores3,25211.8%
Motor vehicle & parts dealers2,79610.1%
Miscellaneous store retailers2,6559.6%
Health & personal care stores2,4728.9%
Building material & garden equipment & supplies dealers1,6025.8%
Sporting goods, hobby, book & music stores1,1504.2%
Furniture & home furnishings stores1,0433.8%
Gasoline stations6192.2%
Non-store retailers4681.7%
Electronics & appliance stores4381.6%
Source: EMSI Analyst, 2019.3 dataset, employee and self-employed

As is indicated in previous briefings, these data represent a maximum potential for job impact within the retail trade industry. It does not follow that all people working in these jobs will be laid off or see employment disruption due to COVID-19. With this in mind, the nature of Ontario’s non-essential business closures mean that certain retail sectors, such as clothing and clothing accessory stores, will likely see a larger employment impact than food and beverage stores.

Job demand data gathered through the aggregation of online job postings between March 29, 2020 and April 11, 2020 show some job demand from a variety of essential retail trade employers. This demand is approximately 35% of that which was observed during a similar period in 2019. Current opportunities are concentrated in grocery stores as well as some opportunities in food service. There was also some demand in alcohol sales and general merchandise sales.

NWPB will be able to offer additional insight on the retail industry with the next update to Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey which will be released on May 8, 2020. At that time, NWPB will produce an updated briefing note to comment on any notable changes in local employment levels.

What to do in Uncertain Times

The coming months are likely to prove challenging for all Niagara residents. Individuals experiencing employment disruptions can access resources and support from Niagara’s Employment Ontario service providers. Contact information for a service provider near you can be found through this link.

For all other inquiries please contact Vivian Kinnaird.

[1]: These data are derived from the Niagara COVID-19 Business Impact Survey, which was delivered by the Niagara Economic Rapid Response Team. NWPB gratefully acknowledges the efforts of Niagara’s twelve municipalities and the Regional Municipality of Niagara in delivering this survey.

[2]: Job count data from 2019 are estimates based on partial year data.

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