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Study Shows Government Sector Job Growth Outpaced Private Sector Amidst COVID-19 Onset

Jobs in the government sector grew at a rate much faster than in the private sector since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study shows.

The study released by the Fraser Institute found that the net job growth in the public sector outpaced the private sector by more than three times during the period from February 2020 to June 2023.

Nationwide, the number of government-sector jobs at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels increased 11.8 percent during that period while the number of private-sector jobs, which include the self-employed, increased only 3.3 percent.

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Ben Eisen, senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and co-author of the study, says the contrast between the two sectors “has been significant.”

“When governments talk about the employment recovery following COVID-19, it is important to understand where job growth has actually occurred, in the government sector or the private sector,” he said in a news release on Sept. 1.


Of the four largest provinces, B.C. had the fastest rate of public sector job creation (22.6 percent) and the slowest rate of private sector job creation (0.3 percent). Alberta, on the contrary, had the lowest rate of government sector job growth (8.9 percent) and the fastest rate of private sector job growth (6.2 percent).

Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan had experienced negative private-sector job growth during that time period, at -0.9 percent, -0.7 percent, -0.6 percent, and -1.5 percent, respectively.

“When the pandemic hit, the private sector suffered much steeper job losses than did the public sector,” the authors wrote. “The private sector did rebound quickly in the subsequent months, but remained below pre-pandemic levels, and has since grown at a generally slower rate than has the public sector.”

“The public sector’s job losses at the outset of the pandemic were much milder and the recovery faster,” they added.

The study says the rate of private sector job growth “appears even weaker” given the rapid population growth experienced in Canada at the time, and that the country’s population over age 15 increased by 4.8 percent over the same time.

“The result is that private sector employment as a share of total employment and of the adult population is falling,” it said.

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