MONTREAL -- Quebec saw a net loss of 208,500 jobs in 2020, according to the provincial stats agency, the Institut de la statistique du Québec or ISQ.

That sum came out of a comparison between the job tally averages for 2020 and 2019, said Luc Cloutier-Villeneuve, an analyst in labour statistics at the agency, in an interview Monday.

The repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that followed were deeply felt, the stats showed -- the sectors most affected were the hotel and restaurant industries, which reported a loss of 80,900 jobs for 2020.

Next come the commerce sectors, with a net loss of 56,000 jobs, and the arts, entertainment and recreation sectors, with a net loss of 18,600 jobs for the year.


The ISQ also confirmed that the categories of workers most affected were women and young people aged 15 to 24.

At first glance, it may seem surprising that women have been so affected, since they hold a greater proportion of jobs in health and education -- sectors which have been preserved essential service status.

But women also hold a large share of the jobs in industries like retail, hotels and food services. And these are sectors that have been hit hard by job losses, explained Cloutier-Villeneuve.

In fact, he said, another interesting phenomenon has emerged: "there have been big job losses in the low-wage [sectors] and significant job increases in [jobs with] high wages."

More specifically, there were many losses among jobs that pay less than $20 an hour, while the number of jobs that pay more than $30 an hour actually grew.

However, both sides of this phenomenon have affected women disproportionately, Cloutier-Villeneuve said.

Women accounted heavily for both the losses and the gains, he said.

"About two-thirds of the jobs valued at $30 and over that have been added... it is women who have benefited," he said.


Quebec is far from being the hardest hit in the country. Canada posted a net loss of 986,400 jobs for the year. The hardest-hit provinces are Alberta, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

"We are in the middle of the pack -- average, I would say,'' said Cloutier-Villeneuve.

He said Quebec's situation is comparable to Ontario's.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2020.