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Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on the Transportation Industry in Atlantic Canada

  • The Atlantic transportation industry has been affected in different ways by COVID-19:
    • Air transportation has stalled due to the closure of international and interprovincial borders. The Atlantic Canada Airports Association projects the number of regional passenger movements will plummet by up to 70% in 2020.
    • Rail transportation has been partially maintained by stable energy and food-related shipments. Rail activity at CN’s Autoport in Halifax is being affected by a large drop in auto sales. Nationally, CN’s automotive rail car loadings in April were down 92% over 2019.
    • Marine cargo is mixed. Volumes at the Port of Halifax declined 8% in the first quarter of 2020 while volumes at Port Saint John were up 16% helped by gains in liquid bulk, which includes crude and refined oil and LNG.
    • Ferry traffic is down. Marine Atlantic passenger traffic volumes fell 72% in April, while commercial traffic was down 15-30%.
    • Continued shipment of essential goods, including groceries and personal protective equipment, is helping sustain the trucking industry. However, the Canadian Trucking Alliance estimates the national trucking industry experienced a 27% decrease in revenue.
    • Postal and courier services are benefitting from more e-commerce.
    • Urban bus and ferry transit are down due to self-isolation and working from home.
  • APEC estimates that Atlantic Canada’s transportation revenues declined 38% in April, a loss of almost $300 million. Employment will only dip 20% as planes, trains and ships have fixed crew requirements. The 75% federal wage subsidy will help sustain employment and offset some of the projected 10,500 regional layoffs.
  • Some transportation restrictions will continue into May and June. Air Canada suspended transborder flights to and from the US until May 21. The PEI-NS ferry service is on hold until the end of May and international cruise ships are banned until June 30.
  • The transportation industry should recover as economies start to reopen. However, international air travel is likely to lag the recovery in other parts of the transportation industry.

Quick Facts

  • There are nearly 7,900 transportation, warehousing and storage business locations in Atlantic Canada. Of these, 89% have less than 10 employees.
  • Almost 53,000 Atlantic Canadians were employed in the transportation, warehousing and storage industry in 2019, representing 5% of total regional employment. Employment is higher in the peak summer tourism season.
  • Average earnings in the transportation, warehousing and storage industry are 13% above the all-industry average, at $1,020 per week.
  • APEC estimates total revenues for transportation, warehousing and storage businesses in Atlantic Canada were $9.4 billion in 2018.



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