Daily Jobless Claims Surge More Than 50% in Canada on Lockdowns

Erik Hertzberg and Kait Bolongaro

(Bloomberg) -- Jobless claims are accelerating in Canada as the coronavirus pandemic forces more and more businesses to shut, leading Prime Minster Justin Trudeau to expand a program to help keep workers on payrolls.

In the 10 days between March 16 and March 25, some 1.55 million Canadians applied for jobless benefits, according to a senior government official with knowledge of the matter. That means on a daily basis, claims averaged about 207,000 in the last three days of the data, compared with about 133,000 in the seven days before that.

The sharp rise in lay offs highlights how abruptly the economy has seized up. Government-funded wage subsidies will be broadened to include all Canadian businesses experiencing losses due to the coronavirus, regardless of size, Trudeau told reporters Monday in Ottawa, expanding a program that was initially announced two weeks ago.

Businesses had been calling on Trudeau to make his wage subsidy program more generous, and they applauded Monday’s move.

“Keeping Canadians connected to their employers will be critical to quickly getting our economy back up and running after the crisis,” Perrin Beatty, chief executive of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

More Pronounced

The latest jobless claims include the 929,000 unemployment applications in the seven days through March 22, along with about an additional 620,000 claims in the first three days of last week, said the person, who spoke on condition they not be identified because the numbers aren’t public. Claims now represent about 8% of the labor force.

Surging claims may have prompted more pronounced action from officials. Any company that has suffered at least a 30% drop in revenue can apply for the fund, which will cover 75% of wages, Trudeau told reporters Monday in Ottawa. The program will be backdated to March 15 and cover the first C$58,700 ($41,400) of a worker’s earnings for a total of as much as C$847 a week.

The government’s original plan announced in mid-March was to provide a 10% wage subsidy for small businesses to keep employees on the payroll.

(Updates with details of government program throughout.)

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