Recession fears have been front and centre to start the year, but a new report from the Angus Reid Institute is shedding light on just how widespread those worries are.
The study, released Feb. 1, found that half of all Canadians under the age of 55 are afraid they could lose their jobs in the event of an economic downturn.
The last time fear of job loss was this high was during the beginning of the second year of the pandemic.
“The fear of job loss has stuck with Canadians in recent years, despite the historic low in unemployment that followed the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions,” the study said.
It also pointed to a softening in the labour market, citing a CIBC report that warns consumer spending is already reaching lows “consistent with prior recessions.”
Last week, CIBC senior economist Andrew Grantham said the volume of spending in this country, on a per-person basis, is well below pre-pandemic levels and nearing levels seen only in recessions.
There are already signs that weakness is costing jobs. Employment in retail, restaurants, hotels and other personal services has been trending lower in recent months after only just hitting pre-pandemic levels in mid 2023, he said. This risks becoming a “vicious circle” of lower spending and further job losses.
The Angus Reid report found that a majority of those worried about job loss are more likely to have a smaller financial cushion than they did when fear levels last spiked.
Within two years, the ability of Canadians to handle an unexpected expense has retreated to levels consistent with those seen prior to the pandemic. This comes as high inflation erodes both savings and purchasing power.
The report found two-in-five of those surveyed say they don’t contribute to a TFSA or an RRSP because “they don’t have enough to save,” despite being in the prime of their working lives.
It also found that a majority of Canadians aged under 55 say they could not handle a sudden expense of more than $1,000 in the coming month. This includes a quarter of women aged 35 to 54 who say they can’t manage any unplanned bills because they are “already too stretched.”
One big factor is the lack of housing affordability, with high rates leaving renters and mortgage borrowers feeling squeezed.
“As rent payments and mortgage payments have risen with interest rates, renters and mortgage holders are much more stressed about money than Canadians with no mortgage,” the report said.
It said 45 per cent of renters and 29 per cent of mortgage borrowers say anything more than $250 would break the bank for them.
The survey by Angus Reid was conducted online from Jan. 16 to 17 among a randomized sample of 1,620 Canadian adults, with a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
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Officials dropped earlier guidance that rates may have to rise again, but also said they need more signs that inflation, now 4 per cent, will fall and stay down sustainably.
Traders held bets that the BOE will deliver at least four quarter-point interest-rate cuts this year, with the first coming in June.
BOE was the first major central bank to lift rates in 2021, and is seen likely to remain at the back of the pack when it comes time to ease.
- Americans get an update on their job market today. Economists forecast U.S. employers added 185,000 jobs in January.
- Today’s Data: United States factory orders and durable goods orders
- Earnings: Imperial Oil Ltd, Chevron Corp
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Today’s Posthaste was written by Denise Paglinawan, with additional reporting from Financial Post staff, The Canadian Press and Bloomberg.
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