A recession will happen, but it’ll be fine… eventually

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Aaliyah Dasoo reports on how the class of 2020 is dealing and coping with unpredictable times

For Kayla Thomson, a fourth year new media student, the job market is always on her mind. Before the outbreak, she recalls visiting employment sites like LinkedIn several times a day, and to her luck, would usually come across pages and pages of jobs posted in her field. 

After the outbreak, she says she’s been seeing significantly fewer postings for job openings and has seen some positions taken off of websites completely. 

When it comes to jobs she’s already applied to, Thomson has been receiving emails saying that companies have been “postponing” their hiring processes, but isn’t so sure she’ll hear back from them. 

The influx of employment cancellations has led to a shift in Thomson’s priorities. Previously, she made a point to look at how much the jobs she applied to would pay her, making sure that it was above minimum wage to help pay off her student debt. 

Now, she says she’s more concerned with “making money rather than paying off debt.”

As we all watch the COVID-19 outbreak, economies across the globe have taken a sharp downturn. Canada is no exception­­—both Toronto and Ontario have declared a state of emergency. As of March 28, gatherings of over five people have been prohibited by the province and public spaces like parks, libraries and others must close. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has encouraged Canadians to continue to practice social distancing, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford has also ordered all non-essential workplaces to close for the next two weeks. 

According to John Shields, an economics expert and, a professor in Ryerson’s department of politics and public administration, the outbreak has slowed down economies significantly, and as a result triggered a recession. 

Simply put, if a country has two or more quarters of economic decline—the three month period the business world uses as a financial calendar—it is classified as a recession. Recessions lead to a significant increase in the level of unemployment and a decline in consumer activity, as people aren’t working and are therefore less eager to be spending money.

Since COVID-19 has impacted the productivity of so many different industries and put so many people out of work, the economy has and will continue to take a sharp downturn. 

Shields explains that the economy works in cycles of growth and shrinkage. A recession is a part of the necessary cycle of our economy.

He says that in capitalist economies, markets expand all the time, but also have to shrink in order to return things to the status quo.

“There’s no sort of magic bullet exactly lying around for when you’re going to get into a recession, or into a boom for that matter,” he says. “But if you look at the history of capitalist economies, it’s very clear that we do go through these different cycles over time.”

Shields explains that generally, recessions are quite necessary to correct things like overproduction and the overheating of an economy. Once a recession finally happens, an economy can begin to slowly expand again.

Currently, Thomson is employed through Ryerson’s career boost program and works as a social media assistant with alumni relations. She’ll be compensated until April but worries that she won’t be able to find another job in her field after that, as companies may not see marketing as their first priority anymore. 

“Even from an entrepreneurial standpoint, if I wanted to run social media, run marketing for companies, no one’s really worried about that right now, which is concerning considering we don’t know when [the outbreak] is going to end,” she says.

“Right now, I know that I’m qualified enough to get a position, but it’s the issue with the job market in general. I’m of scared for what’s going to happen in April.”

Shields says one of the challenges of this recession that predating the outbreak is “the nature of the labour market has shifted quite significantly.”

According to Shields, there has been an increase in jobs that move away from what academics refer to as “standard employment,” that is, “full-time jobs that have a high degree of security that usually come with benefits and [protection through unions].”

Those sorts of jobs have become rare as employment is growing in what he referred to as “precarious work.” According to Shields, precarious work entails “work that is short term, part-time jobs, [and] contract positions that are term-limited, with no guarantee that they will be extended beyond a specified period.”

This is very similar to the type of self-employment Thomson had considered, as well as freelance which is also a type of precarious work that Shields says will be quite different in terms of what student’s parents, and certainly grandparents would have faced when entering the labour market.

Having a guaranteed job after graduation is something Thomson has seen her peers attain from working at companies beforehand. For herself, and many others working in student positions at a university, that opportunity isn’t something that can be offered.

“The fact that I don’t know what’s happening after that last day for career boost…it’s making me anxious, because I can’t see my future.” 

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