By SHAADIE MUSLEH
The world has changed in the blink of an eye. COVID-19 has brought about a new normal where everyone knows the term “social distancing,” where toilet paper is a hot commodity, and where Netflix is worth more than ExxonMobil.
This week, EDR released its Economic Report Card for April. Glancing over the numbers. Three things have become clear, and I’d like to share those with you.
- Regina’s economy isn’t immune to COVID-19
There’s no way to sugar coat it. March was a rough month for Regina’s economy. In the last half of the month, the social distancing measures made necessary by the pandemic had huge impacts on Regina businesses. Many businesses were forced to either close or scale back dramatically. Year over year employment was down in many sectors of the economy – with finance and insurance, and scientific and technical services being notable exceptions. Overall, Regina’s unemployment rate moved from 4.8% a year ago to 7.4% now.
Some sectors are particularly hard hit – accommodation and food services for example – as restaurants closed for all but takeout and delivery. Demand for hotel rooms decreased dramatically as advisories limiting travel took effect.
- March numbers may not show the full extent of the employment impact
Because the true impact of social distancing measures didn’t take hold until the late March, it’s possible that employment might drop a little further in the Regina area. For context, Statistics Canada conducts their employment research on the third week of the month – in this case, before many of Saskatchewan’s measures were fully in place. While our reality won’t change, the statistics will give us a better picture of the situation.
As I write this, it looks as though we’ll have done a very good job flattening the pandemic curve, and that the Province is developing a plan to slowly reopen our economy. Those are definite positives. In the meantime, however, businesses remain affected by the slowdown and haven’t yet been able to recall workers to any significant extent. Expect another tough set of numbers for April.
- There are opportunities to move forward
Through all the difficulty, there are reasons to remain optimistic that Regina survives this unprecedented time and continue to grow and thrive. Support from all levels of government will help many businesses get to the other side. Communities have come together in amazing ways to share information, support each other and take the fight to the virus. Businesses are innovating and we’re seeing the kind of resilience and entrepreneurial spirit that make Regina great.
Recently, we’ve seen business leaders from across Regina’s economy come together to support other businesses as part of the Audacity Membership Program. That sharing of knowledge and experience will strengthen our entire business community now and well into the future – and that bodes well for Regina’s economy.
We will come through this. It will be a while before we’re fully open for business, but we will continue to make progress. Regina has a broad, diverse economy, and we have a strong foundation for growth in place. The things that made us great before the pandemic will be thereafter, and with a little work, we’ll become better than ever.