'We have no idea how many people are going to feel safe': Businesses prepare for new reality
VICTORIA, B.C. -- As statistics show staggering job losses totalling two million in Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses given the go-ahead to reopen in B.C. aren’t sure what’s ahead. That’s especially true for personal services.
Jackie West is the general manager of Regal Grooming Lounge in Vancouver. The last day she worked was March 18. West says she’s still trying to access federal benefits, while at the same time, preparing for a new business reality.
"We have no idea how many people are going to feel safe — leaving home to get a personal, up-close service," she told CTV News by Skype.
West says her employer plans to reopen in June. She knows enhanced cleaning and safety protocols will be in place. She expects barbers to need personal protective equipment, that clients may need to wear masks, and that a lot more time will be spent cleaning. Exactly what that plan will look like is unclear until WorkSafeBC signs off on the plan.
Unlike regulated health professions like massage therapists and chiropractors, personal services don’t have an association, so she says guidelines are being put in place.
"With the amount of safety and cleaning precautions we’ll be taking, we’re going to have to allot a considerable amount of time between each client," she added.
For many personal services, that may cut into the bottom line and impact their ability to re-hire staff. At Regal, West doesn’t anticipate any losses, partly because they have the space to abide by physical distancing rules.
Job losses mount in B.C.
The reopening of businesses is key not only to helping those who have lost their jobs, but also the economic recovery of the province.
Since March, 396,500 British Columbians have lost their jobs, due to COVID-19. The unemployment rate jumped nearly 5 per cent to 11.5 per cent.
While presenting the numbers, Finance Minister Carole James admitted the losses will have long-term effects, such as tax revenue drops.
"Today's data shows a staggering number of people are feeling the economic impacts of COVID-19," James added.
UBC economics professor Kevin Milligan says the losses are stunning.
"They’re numbers that are absolutely unprecedented in the history of economic statistics," he added.
Most of the losses are in food and retail, and tourism is also badly hurting. Milligan thinks the worst is probably behind us, as we could see jobs return as we enter May and even more in the summer.
"I think the greater constraint in getting the economy going is confidence that people aren’t going to get sick when they go out in public," said Milligan.
It’s something West knows will be key to trying to find a new normal for her workplace.