The long pandemic is in its third year. People in our community have died. Others have been left with lingering pain – so-called long COVID. Not captured in raw statistics, the pandemic has also taken a toll on mental health. Then there is the havoc of opening then closing of the economy time and again.
Not all economic problems are equal. The hardest hit are people who keep losing their livelihood every time the economy shuts down; this is especially true of people who work in restaurants and retail. Running a take-out service is not the same as operating a full-service restaurant. Restrictions on store closing and the number of people allowed in at any one time have meant hardships and contributed to the surge in online orders.
People working in health care, hospitals, and long-term-care homes are suffering from overwork, understaffing, and seeing firsthand the worst of the pandemic.
That said, the overall economy is not in a recession. The unemployment rate in Quebec is at 4.6%, close to where it was when the pandemic started in 2020, and much lower than in the rest of Canada. The unemployment rate for Estrie, as statisticians call it, is just 3.2%. That is why businesses can’t find employees.
The big change is people who could work from home during the long pandemic. As we point out elsewhere in this issue, this area is well served by high-speed internet, and it is getting faster and more widespread all the time. The phenomenon of working from home will be one change that lasts past the pandemic, in particular in a community like this one.
Perhaps people who have done well during the pandemic could think of their neighbours who are less well-off and think about patronizing their restaurants and shops right now and when the veil of COVID finally lifts, as it surely will.