A Main Street business shows its new hours cut back due to COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 31. More than two-thirds of Yukon businesses responding to a recent survey said that they’ve been negatively impacted by physical distancing measures. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Two-thirds of Yukon businesses surveyed by StatsCan say COVID-19 has had negative impact

More than 50 per cent expect quick return to normal once physical distancing restrictions lifted

More than two-thirds of Yukon businesses responding to a recent survey said that they’ve been negatively impacted by physical distancing measures.

However, more than half expect to be able to reopen or return to normal operations in less than a week after those measures are lifted.

Those were among the findings of a document released by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics on May 19.

The data in the report was taken from Statistic Canada’s latest Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, with the data relevant up to March 31.

A hundred and one Yukon businesses completed the survey.

The bureau’s document noted the data was “not subjected to a probabilistic sample design,” meaning the results can’t be applied to businesses at large.

Of the Yukon businesses that did complete the survey, just less than 23 per cent reported that their revenues had decreased by 40 per cent or more in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the first quarter of 2019.

About 62 per cent of businesses said that they had not laid off any employees due to COVID 19, while 9.9 per cent reported laying off the entirety of their workforce.

Roughly 32 per cent said they’d reduced staffing hours or shifts, with 15 per cent saying they’d either frozen or cut back on salaries and wages (three per cent reported increasing wages).

Just more than 37 per cent said they expected they could remain open for six months or more with physical distancing measures in place, while 20 per cent said they couldn’t operate at all.

Yukon Chamber of Commerce president Peter Turner cautioned though that while the statistics are a fairly “good reflection on the landscape out there at the moment,” they don’t necessarily show how some sectors have been hit harder than others.

Many tourism businesses, for example, typically don’t start operations until May, he explained, meaning they’re likely not able to provide contrasts in revenue between March of this year and last. Seasonal businesses also tend to rely on seasonal staff, meaning that instead of laying off employees, they just won’t be hiring anyone at all.

The restaurant industry has also been hit disproportionally hard, Turner said, noting the already-thin profit margins when operating at full dining-room capacity.

“I have not heard, for example, from the restaurant industry that they think, you know, long-term, they can be viable at 50 per cent capacity,” he said, adding that take-out “may be a way to keep your head above water for a little while but we’ve got to find a way to get beyond that if they’re going to be successful long-term.”

All Yukon businesses, he said, are “very anxious” to be able to “start to move towards reopening the business environment.”

“I mean, we’re very fortunate up here in the Yukon that we’ve not had community spread to date and that may allow us to proceed and move a little bit faster towards a new normal provided that we remain you know, as safe an environment as we are right now,” he said. “And certainly, the business community is all about wanting to open safely so we’ll be focused on that very much.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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