Briefing Note on the Retail Trade Jobs at Risk in Niagara from the COVID-19 Coronavirus – April 20, 2020

Posted in News, COVID-19

Briefing Note on the Retail Trade Jobs at Risk in Niagara from the COVID-19 Coronavirus – April 20, 2020

As part of NWPB’s efforts to provide updates on the impact of COVID-19, this briefing note outlines the known and potential impacts of this pandemic on the retail trade industry.

Local retail employers have already felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic through physical distancing practices, increased dependency on online sales and fulfillment, and policies regarding the closure of non-essential businesses. To gauge these impacts, the Niagara Economic Rapid Response Team recently conducted a survey assessing employer experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. When retail employers were asked whether COVID-19 has impacted their operations, 97.7% of those that responded to the question indicated that their business were impacted. Approximately 92.3% of responding employers indicated they had lost revenue because of this virus. When estimating the extent of revenue loss, the largest portion of employers indicated that they had lost between 76-100% of revenue between March 1, 2020 and the survey collection period (March 20-30, 2020). The full breakdown is noted below.[1]

Estimated March Revenue Loss for Retail Employers

Employers reporting 1 to 25% revenue loss Employers reporting 26 to 50% revenue loss Employers reporting 51 to 75% revenue loss Employers reporting 76 to 100% revenue loss
12.1% 21.7% 26.9% 39.3%


Data from the March Labour Force Survey noted 2,600 fewer people working in the wholesale and retail trade industry between February 2020 and March 2020. Though these data do not speak only to retail trade, it does point to employment declines in the general sector. Keeping in mind that some retail is defined as an essential service (e.g., grocery stores), it will be important to continue monitoring both employment levels and job demand in this sector that has seen significant business slowdowns.

Niagara housed an estimated 25,295 retail trade jobs in the 2019 calendar year, including both full-time and part-time jobs.[2] Given current trends in business and service shutdowns, some elements of retail trade are likely to face continuing disruption due to the COVID-19 virus, while others struggle to meet labour demand. Overall, retail trade jobs represent an estimated 13.6% of total jobs in Niagara.

Niagara also housed 2,363 self-employed retail trade jobs throughout 2019. These individuals are also likely to face continued disruption due to COVID-19. These retail trade jobs represent an estimated 7.3% of total self-employment jobs in Niagara.

Retail Trade Subsectors - Niagara region Retail Trade Jobs - Employee Retail Trade Jobs - Employee Retail Trade Jobs - Self-employed Retail Trade Jobs - Self-employed
  2019 Jobs Percentage of Jobs 2019 Jobs Percentage of Jobs
Food & beverage stores 6,935 27.4% 452 19.1%
Clothing & clothing accessories stores 3,500 13.8% 276 11.7%
General merchandise stores 3,208 12.7% 44 1.8%
Motor vehicle & parts dealers 2,595 10.3% 201 8.5%
Health & personal care stores 2,422 9.6% 49 2.1%
Miscellaneous store retailers 1,855 7.3% 800 33.9%
Building material & garden equipment & supplies dealers 1,537 6.1% 65 2.8%
Sporting goods, hobby, book & music stores 1,085 4.3% 65 2.8%
Furniture & home furnishings stores 914 3.6% 130 5.5%
Gasoline stations 600 2.4% 19 0.8%
Electronics & appliance stores 424 1.7% 14 0.6%
Non-store retailers 219 0.9% 248 10.5%
Total Retail Trade 25,295 100.0% 2,363 100.0%

Source: EMSI Analyst, 2019.3 dataset, employees and self-employed



Combining data for employed and self-employment jobs show that Niagara housed 27,658 retail trade jobs in the 2019 calendar year. These jobs represent approximately 12.6% of all jobs in Niagara.

Retail Trade Subsectors - Niagara region 2019 Jobs (employee + self-employed) Percentage of Retail Trade Jobs (employee + self-employed)
Food & beverage stores 7,387 26.7%
Clothing & clothing accessories stores 3,776 13.7%
General merchandise stores 3,252 11.8%
Motor vehicle & parts dealers 2,796 10.1%
Miscellaneous store retailers 2,655 9.6%
Health & personal care stores 2,472 8.9%
Building material & garden equipment & supplies dealers 1,602 5.8%
Sporting goods, hobby, book & music stores 1,150 4.2%
Furniture & home furnishings stores 1,043 3.8%
Gasoline stations 619 2.2%
Non-store retailers 468 1.7%
Electronics & appliance stores 438 1.6%
Total 27,658 100.0%

Source: EMSI Analyst, 2019.3 dataset, employee and self-employed


As is indicated in previous briefings, these data represent a maximum potential for job impact within the retail trade industry. It does not follow that all people working in these jobs will be laid off or see employment disruption due to COVID-19. With this in mind, the nature of Ontario’s non-essential business closures mean that certain retail sectors, such as clothing and clothing accessory stores, will likely see a larger employment impact than food and beverage stores.

Job demand data gathered through the aggregation of online job postings between March 29, 2020 and April 11, 2020 show some job demand from a variety of essential retail trade employers. This demand is approximately 35% of that which was observed during a similar period in 2019. Current opportunities are concentrated in grocery stores as well as some opportunities in food service. There was also some demand in alcohol sales and general merchandise sales.

NWPB will be able to offer additional insight on the retail industry with the next update to Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey which will be released on May 8, 2020. At that time, NWPB will produce an updated briefing note to comment on any notable changes in local employment levels.


What to do in Uncertain Times


The coming months are likely to prove challenging for all Niagara residents. Individuals experiencing employment disruptions can access resources and support from Niagara’s Employment Ontario service providers. Contact information for a service provider near you can be found through this link.

For all other inquiries please contact Vivian Kinnaird.


[1]: These data are derived from the Niagara COVID-19 Business Impact Survey, which was delivered by the Niagara Economic Rapid Response Team. NWPB gratefully acknowledges the efforts of Niagara’s twelve municipalities and the Regional Municipality of Niagara in delivering this survey.

[2]: Data from the 2019 calendar year are estimates based on partial year data.



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