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By Greg Quinn
     OTTAWA (MNI) - Canada lost a historic 2 million jobs in April and the
unemployment rate surged to 13%, in a nation of 38 million people, reflecting a
full month of health shutdowns because of Covid-19.
     The weakness was less severe than the MNI economist survey median of 4
million and a jobless rate of 16.6%. March and April both shattered modern-day
records for job losses, while unemployment is just shy of the peak of 13.1% set
in 1982 and the increase was the biggest on record. The jobless rate would be
17.8% when including people out of work due to the pandemic but don't meet the
official definition of unemployed. 
     Statistics Canada's report Friday broke out other numbers for a second
month to assess the status of people who have been sent home because of health
rules and may or may not have a job to go back to soon. The pandemic has left
5.5 million people out of work or having substantially reduced hours -- 
one-quarter of the workforce.
     Total hours worked -- linked more closely to GDP -- dropped 14.9% in April
and by 27.7% since February. Canada's GDP may drop as much as 30% in the second
quarter from the end of last year, the central bank says.
     Wages rose 10.8% in April from a year ago, but only because of job losses
among low-wage workers, StatsCan said. 
     --LOSSES MAY BE PERMANENT
     While policy makers are hopeful that a sudden and broad shutdown will help
ease the health crisis and make an economic recovery easier, there is also
concern about a wave of bankruptcies and permanent job losses in an economy
already facing pressures unseen outside of world wars or the 1930s. Governments
are only starting now to re-open a handful of enterprises where people can be
kept six feet apart, suggesting little recovery in the next few job reports. 
     "In April, more than one-third (36.7%) of the potential labor force did not
work or worked less than half of their usual hours, illustrating the continuing
impact of the COVID-19 economic shutdown on the labor market," StatsCan's report
said.
     The Bank of Canada has cut rates to around zero and added balance sheet
assets worth about 15% of GDP, and the government is looking at a deficit worth
13% of output this year. The help is needed to keep people afloat while 10% of
mortgage borrowers have sought deferrals and many business owners struggle to
pay rent and other bills.
--MNI Ottawa Bureau; +1 613-314-9647; email: greg.quinn@marketnews.com
[TOPICS: MACDS$,M$C$$$,MT$$$$]