Yukon saw a major spike in business closures in April as the economic fallout from COVID-19 began to take hold.
But figures from the statistics bureau show the territory might be at least staying afloat.
Preliminary figures released by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics show that 129 businesses closed in April, compared to 66 businesses that opened. Closures continued to outweigh openings in May with 79 shuttered and 50 opened.
By June, the most recent month for which figures are available, the trend had reversed: 88 new businesses opened and 65 closed.
Yukon’s Liberal government holds this up as evidence that policies aimed at keeping businesses afloat are working. In the fall economic update released last week, finance officials project that Yukon’s GDP will grow by 0.8 per cent in 2020.
That’s a far cry from the 6.2 per cent growth predicted in the March budget, but so far it appears the Yukon has avoided a recession.
Still, acting Yukon Party leader Stacey Hassard criticized the Liberals for offering GDP figures as good economic news.
GDP figures ‘cold comfort’ for jobless, Hassard says
“The government is bragging about the GDP growth,” Hassard said in question period Monday. “Well, GDP numbers are cold comfort for out-of-work Yukoners.”
Premier Sandy Silver said the modest GDP growth doesn’t mean the government doesn’t recognize the impact the pandemic has had on the territorial economy. He said territorial and federal programs designed to cover fixed business expenses such as rent and utilities is helping to limit the economic damage.
“Do we believe that we’re out of the woods? No, we don’t,” Silver said. “Are we concerned about the businesses that have gone under and the other ones that have to switch and have [had] their lives turned upside down? Absolutely.”
All told, there are 100 fewer businesses open in the Yukon now than before the pandemic started. And the territory’s unemployment has doubled to eight per cent.
Data in the fall economic update suggested the Yukon shed 4,000 jobs between March and June, effectively wiping out a decade of employment growth. A massive drop in tourism hit the service and accommodation sectors especially hard: the number of jobs in those sectors dropped by half.
The pandemic has also wiped out a modest $4.1-million surplus in the March budget. The supplementary budget now forecasts a deficit of $31.6 million for the next fiscal year.