Every week during the coronavirus crisis, CCDF will be providing its clients with an economic update to help them understand the wider economic implications and better plan their own recovery.
This week, we focus on what we know about the economic impacts so far and if a return to normal is within sight.
What do we know about the economic impacts of COVID-19? Official data has been hard to come by. Data released by Statistics Canada usually has a 1-2 month time lag. Right now we have February data on indicators such as unemployment, the Consumer Price Index and merchandise exports; January data on housing starts, retail and vehicle sales; and Q4 2019 on GDP. It is likely that we will not have a fulsome picture of COVID-19’s economic impacts until late Spring, when the crisis itself will be abating. What most analysts will be looking for is evidence of whether the COVID-19 recovery is “V-shaped” – a sharp decline paired with a sharp recovery; or “U-shaped” – a sharp decline with a slower return to growth. Obviously, the hope is for a V-shaped recovery.
To keep your own eye on official macroeconomic data, you can visit Saskatchewan’s economic dashboard here and Canada’s here.
There are a few more accessible data points that can help us understand the depth and nature of the impact more quickly. The Toronto Stock Exchange Composite Index, or TSX, provides daily trading volumes that are a good indicator of investor confidence in particular sectors. It reached its all-time high of 17,842 on February 22nd, right before COVID fears sent markets on a downward spiral. It crashed to 11,851 on March 21 and has since rebounded to 13,639. The last time it was that low was in April 2016.
Of particular relevance for Saskatchewan, Cameco stocks have already returned to pre-COVID levels, in the $12-$13 range, following their crash to $7.97 on March 18. Nutrien has recovered somewhat, but is still trading in the high $40s, as compared to the high $50s it was trading at in February. Mosaic and BHP’s upswing has been even weaker. These are decent indications of what analysts expect in terms of demand and pricing for these commodities in the next few months.
Insofar as agri-food products are concerned, wheat, durum, and dry beans are still in high demand which is good news for Saskatchewan.
How are workers faring? Although official unemployment data is not yet available, the Government of Canada announced that it is expecting 4 million Canadian Emergency Relief Benefits (CERB) applications in the next 2 weeks, giving a sense of the extent to which they believe COVID-19 will reach.
A few pollsters have also asked Canadians about their current financial situation. In an Angus Reid poll, workers in the 18-24 age group indicated they have been hit the hardest, with 72% having already lost work or been laid off. And about half of Canadians in the 25-64 year age range indicated they have either lost work or been laid off. At the household level, about 3⁄4 of respondents said their finances were good or great, while 1⁄4 said they were bad or terrible.
There is a bit of a silver lining. In a CD Howe Institute survey, the Saskatchewan/Manitoba region actually fared better in terms of economic impact than any other region in the country, with the fewest respondents reporting that they had either been laid off or had lost work.
What impacts are being seen in different sectors? In Saskatchewan, restaurants, personal services, hospitality and oil & gas are being hit particularly hard. According to Restaurants Canada, 25,000 restaurant workers in Saskatchewan have already been laid off.
Areas that may see growth in the COVID crisis include e-commerce, advanced manufacturing for health care and food processing.
Moody’s Analytics has identified risk levels it believes various sectors are facing:
Are we any closer to opening up for business? Caution is advised at this point. Even as growth in COVID-19 slows in Saskatchewan and across western Canada, returning to business-as-usual too soon will likely result in a strong second wave of case, leading to a return to physical distancing measures and closures.
Austria is the first European country to ease the COVID lockdown, and will be watched very carefully in terms of their success in keeping new cases at bay. They will begin reopening some non-essential retail outlets next week; personal services such as hair salons on May 1; and potentially restaurants and cafes in mid-May, though no exact date on the latter has been given.
Austria has roughly the same population (9 million) as B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan put together (10.5 million). As of writing, it has had over 12,000 confirmed cases, however growth in new cases has slowed to 2.8% daily. BC, AB and SK have had a combined 1750 confirmed cases as of April 6, with daily growth rates between 2-8%.
How can my business adjust to the new economic reality in Saskatchewan? CCDF is offering all of its clients up to $10,000 for professional assistance, through its Business Support Program, to navigate these difficult times, and has retained a number of consultants to help you with your specific needs. Areas of support include addressing HR issues, acquiring economic intelligence and financial management advice, and more. Call your CCDF Business Development Specialist to access this program right away, and better understand what supports and strategies will work best for your circumstances.
What are some good resources to learn more? Morris Interactive has compiled a list of free resources that will provide up to date economic information during the coronavirus crisis. You can view those resources here.