Although it still remains to be seen just how much of a long term impact COVID-19 will have on the Canadian workforce, there’s no doubt that professionals and their families are already being affected.

According to Statistics Canada, the average monthly lay off rate in the country has been 12.4% since February 2020.

No industry is immune, with all-time highs reported in food/accomodation services (23.8%), health care and social assistance (19.0%), and retail trade (16.3%).

To put this in perspective, the overall average monthly lay off rates for the past three notable recessions were 3.5% (1981-1982), 3.4% (1990-1991), and 2.5% (2008-2009).

That means that the current pandemic has already caused more layoffs than the past three recessions collectively.

Undoubtedly, you know at least one person (if not several) who have been laid off because of COVID. And if you’re reading this article, there’s a pretty good chance that that person is you.

So now that you know the numbers behind the layoffs, what should you know about explaining your unemployment to employers and recruiters so you can get back in the saddle?

Let’s find out!

Be prepared to speak about how you used your time

You can reasonably expect that employers will understand why you were laid off.

Unless they’ve been living under a rock, it’s clear to everyone that most industries were required to pivot during the pandemic, and for some that meant shutting down most or all of their operations.

But while that puts you on a level playing field with other laid off job seekers in terms of WHY you were unemployed, you need to get ahead by explaining what you’ve done while you were unemployed.

Honestly, this is nothing new. Being prepared to explain gaps in employment is always a must for any job application.

Just remember, employers don’t want to hear about your leisure time activity during your layoff. You need to focus on the ways you’ve been maintaining or improving your professional skills.

Think about what ways you’ve managed to stay ready-to-work. Did you take any courses? Did you develop any new skills? Did you start any initiatives of your own?

No one is expecting you to say that the pandemic was a breeze, but they do want to hear that you stayed motivated and ready to pursue your career!

Keep honesty as your number one policy

You can explain your layoff right on your resume. No need to wait until your interview to discuss it.

Being open and honest is always well-received by recruiters! And if you take the initiative to address it first, you get to control the conversation.

For example, in your job description of the position you were laid off from, you could say something like:

“Managed a team of 4 employees prior to COVID-19 layoff”


“Oversaw the production of 5,000 units/day before COVID-19-related closure of business”

Instead of focusing on what you weren’t able to accomplish because of your layoff, lead with what you were able to accomplish in your time there!

And speaking of being honest, be sure not to lie about the dates of your employment. It may seem enticing to try to cover up the gap in your work history, but if a potential employer uncovers your lie, you’ll lose your shot at closing that gap…

Stay positive and professional

Let’s talk about mental health for a minute.

If you’ve been laid off, then you know exactly how it feels.

While it can be different to each individual, there are common experiences such as shame, anxiety, depression, uncertainty about the future, panic — the list goes on.

Often, those feelings don’t entirely disappear until you’ve found a new job. But those same feelings can easily impact your ability to get a new job, too.

You might find yourself oversharing your frustration with recruiters, or letting your desperation affect your ability to keep your career goals in focus.

Avoid speaking ill of your previous employers, especially the one who had to lay you off. Your next employer will be hesitant to hire you if you can’t sympathize with major changes to the business.

When a recruiter wants to know how well you “roll with the punches”, seeing how you handled the biggest blow of all — losing your job — is one of their greatest insights.

Show them that you can keep looking forward, and that you stay positive despite negative circumstances.

An easy way to do this is to practice mental wellness during your job search. That means taking time to self-care, and organizing your time (and working space) so as to not cause you stress.


Never forget that you’ve made it this far.

Unemployment can be a difficult experience, but being laid off means that you never stopped being qualified to work. There just wasn’t enough work to go around.

And if you’ve made it this far, you have the determination it takes to keep going through to the other side!