Businesses facing tough choices as pandemic continues

The Canadian Press

One in five Canadian businesses will look to further staffing cuts, bankruptcies or closures should COVID-19 conditions remain the same as they do today, suggests a new survey by Statistics Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Polling data released Tuesday shows about 40 per cent of all businesses reduced staff hours or shifts due to the pandemic and over 17 per cent laid off half or more of their workforces.

According to the poll, which surveyed more than 12,600 businesses, industries that laid off at least half of their staff include the arts, entertainment and recreation sector (89.6 per cent); the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector (83 per cent); and the accommodation and food services sector (80.3 per cent).

“As hard as it’s been to see,” said Bram Strain, president and CEO of the Business Council of Manitoba, “these numbers aren’t necessarily surprising.”

About 52 per cent of survey respondents said their revenues for the month of April were down to two-thirds of what they made in the same period last year, while more than one-third of respondents said their revenues shrunk by half or more.

But as revenues dwindled, expenses for businesses remained the same. Over 40 per cent of businesses said their expenses — excluding salaries and wages — have remained the same as they were before the pandemic.

“These numbers affect each business and sector differently depending on their size and type of operation,” said Strain. “Because while some bigger businesses have been allowed to continue operations in some capacity, closures and layoffs will undeniably affect small business and certain sectors a whole lot more.”

As lockdowns have been enforced during the pandemic, some sectors turned to working from home. Survey respondents indicate that will likely continue. Nearly a third of businesses said at least one in 10 people in their workforce were working remotely on May 29 — almost twice as much compared to figures from Statistics Canada reported in February.

Once the pandemic is over, close to a quarter of businesses expect that 10 per cent or more of their workforce will continue to work remotely. But those businesses are mostly part of “the information and cultural industries sector and in the professional, scientific and technical services sector,” according to the survey.

“We have to understand that the economics of our country are not an island,” said Strain. “Not everyone can work from home.

“And more so, whether we’ve flattened our curve and reduced our COVID-19 cases in most parts or not, what happens to our neighbours down south or business partners globally will affect us and our economy.”

Polling results also released Tuesday found one quarter of all businesses said they had their rent payments or mortgage payments deferred, while 5.7 per cent had their requests to defer payments rejected.

“How certain industries — like arts and sports and entertainment — that are hardest-hit will survive depends on how they’ll weather the storm,” said Strain. “Will everything return exactly to normal? I think we’ll have to see how that plays out in a year or two.”

By Temur Durrani , Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Winnipeg Free Press

The Milestone Hotel & Residences Lorem efficitur. mattis diam nunc velit, luctus felis commodo Praesent eleifend