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Sault employers feeling the COVID-19 crunch

Survey results reporting layoffs, low sales, and closures
Downtown Sault Ste. Marie (File photo)

Results of an April survey gauging the temperature of Sault Ste. Marie business owners demonstrate widespread layoffs and pessimism about the future of their work in the wake of COVID-19.

The survey, conducted between April 16 and April 23, is a joint initiative of the City of Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma Workforce Investment Corp. (AWIC).

Tom Vair, the city’s deputy CAO of community development and enterprise services, said in a news release that the feedback would be used to communicate with various levels of government and help with post-crisis recovery.

“The pandemic has had major impacts in the local area and around the world, on businesses, livelihoods and jobs,” Vair said. “The information will help inform how our community will respond.”

There were 622 responses to the survey, with about 14 per cent coming from the retail sector, 13 per cent coming from health care and social assistance, and 10 per cent coming from construction.

Transportation was represented by five per cent of respondents, manufacturing represented four per cent of respondents, and agriculture and forestry represented three per cent of respondents.

Overall, participants reported they have had to lay off 40 per cent of their workforce in response to COVID-19.

Forty-two per cent said their business has closed temporarily, while another 42 per cent said they’ve reduced their hours, staff and business operations. Three per cent said their business or organization has closed permanently.

Sixty-five per cent of participants said they’ve had to restrict spending because of the uncertainty associated with the pandemic, while 60 per cent said sales have decreased.

Respondents also reported a bleak long-term outlook: 37 per cent believe COVID-19 could put them out of business, while 44 per cent said it would significantly impact their financials.

The full survey results are available here.