Women bore the brunt of early COVID-19 job losses in Canada but the playing field will likely level off after social distancing measures prompted nationwide layoffs.

More than 1 million Canadians lost their jobs in March, with the pain concentrated in the services sector and women disproportionately accounting for more than 60 per cent of the losses. April numbers are due this week and economists are expecting the cuts to be even worse.

“It will be far more widespread and we will see more industries that are connected to men’s jobs affected,” according to Armine Yalnizyan, a research fellow at the Atkinson Foundation focusing on the changing nature of work.

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The closing of schools and childcare centers -- where many women work -- is one reason why female employment took such a hit in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Yalnizyan said in an interview.

While economists have started to call the sharp downturn a “she-cession,” April’s numbers may not accentuate female employment losses as much given huge swathes of the economy are now suffering.

Canada probably lost more than 4 million jobs on the month, representing a fifth of the labour force and by far the largest decrease in monthly employment on record, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.

READ: BNN Bloomberg's COVID-19 jobs tracker

Construction in Crosshairs

Brendon Bernard, an economist at job-search platform Indeed Canada, will be watching the construction sector closely in Friday’s report, due at 8:30 a.m. from Statistics Canada in Ottawa. The field didn’t suffer much in March but since then companies in the industry reported significant layoffs, according to a separate survey by the agency.

Indeed data suggest job postings for construction have fallen in line with overall labor-market losses. “The hit might not have been too great in March but we could see more troubling numbers in April,” Bernard said by phone.

While Friday’s jobs report is likely to show a more even split between female and male employment losses, it’s still out of the ordinary, according to Mike Moffatt, an assistant professor at Western University’s Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario.

“That’s very different than your typical recession which tends to be an 80/20 split,” Moffatt said. “The job losses are experienced 80 per cent by men just because goods producing sectors like construction and manufacturing tend to be more sensitive to the business cycle or at least have been historically.”

Path to Recovery

That suggests the recovery will be different as well. Both Moffatt and Yalnizyan agree service-sector jobs wont bounce back as fast, therefore female employment will have a tougher time rebounding.

“Once things start to return to normal, it’s probably going to be a female-dominated recession again just because the sectors that should be able to come back quickly tend to be a little-more male dominated,” Moffatt said.

Discussions around the reopening of the economy already suggest more male centric businesses will open up first such as golf courses, marinas and lawn care.

“We are looking at initially, in Ontario, a he-covery and that will not be captured by the April data,” Yalnizyan said.

Schools and childcare centers are likely to be some of the last places to recover amid the public-health crisis. Without childcare, women may opt to stay at home to take care of their kids and out of work for longer.