OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada added 378,200 jobs in September and the unemployment rate fell to 9.0%, handily beating analyst expectations, as children returned to school and the economy continued to reopen from coronavirus shutdowns, Statistics Canada said on Friday.

Analysts in a Reuters poll had predicted a gain of 156,600 jobs and for the unemployment rate to fall to 9.7% from 10.2% in August.

The gain brought employment to within 720,000 of its pre-pandemic level, Statscan said.

“It’s a good number. It’s very encouraging that we didn’t decelerate in September,” said Andrew Kelvin, chief Canada strategist at TD Securities.

The Canadian dollar strengthened to a three-week high at 1.3132 to the greenback, or 76.15 U.S. cents.

Full-time employment rose by 334,000 and compared with 44,200 new part-time positions. Employment in the goods-producing sector grew by 75,100 jobs, while the services sector grew by 303,100 positions.

Black Canadians saw big employment gains, with their jobless rate falling 5.9 percentage points to 11.7%, while the unemployment rate for Filipino Canadians fell to 8.5%, Statscan data showed. The white jobless rate was 7%.

Employment in educational services rose by 5% in September, as students returned to school and staffing levels were adjusted to support COVID-19 classroom changes.

That helped boost employment for mothers with children under the age of 18, bringing employment levels for both mothers and fathers in line with February.

However, more mothers continued to work less than half their usual hours than fathers, with hours lost due to both personal reasons, like child care demands, and reduced shifts.

And with COVID-19 cases surging in Canada, leading to fresh restrictions in the most populous provinces, economists warned there were major headwinds on the horizon for the coming months.

“I would be shocked if job growth didn’t slow in the next couple

In a desperate bid to get Canadian travelers to go abroad once again, Canada’s biggest airline, Air Canada, is offering passengers free Covid-19 medical insurance, even as the Canadian government continues to advise against non-essential travel.

Air Canada announced that it will now be including complimentary COVID-19 emergency medical and quarantine insurance for eligible passengers who book round-trip international flights. The coverage will be available for new bookings made in Canada from September 17 until October 31, 2020. The airline hopes that the free insurance will give customers added confidence when booking flights and travelling abroad.

“At Air Canada, we know people have personal, family and business reasons to travel. To give them greater confidence as they do so, we have engaged Manulife to offer all Canadian residents complimentary COVID-19 emergency medical & quarantine insurance when they book round-trip flights for travel outside of Canada. Combined with our industry leading airport and onboard biosafety protocols, including Air Canada CleanCare+, and our flexible rebooking policies, customers can be assured that when they book and travel with Air Canada their safety and well-being is our top priority,” said Lucie Guillemette, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Air Canada in the press release.

The plan (called the Manulife COVID-19 Emergency Medical Certificate of Insurance) is available only for new international, round-trip bookings made in Canada between September 17 and October 31, 2020, for travel completed by April 12, 2021. 

When abroad, if customers test positive for COVID-19, the Plan coverage includes:

  • Up to CDN $200,000 per insured for COVID-19 treatment medical expenses.
  • Up

Dina Helen Essoka (right) launched her private security business last year, finding it difficult to secure a loan to cover the start-up costs. During COVID-19, she continues to struggle as the CEBA loan is unable to cover the costs of employing staff.
Dina Helen Essoka (right) launched her private security business last year, finding it difficult to secure a loan to cover the start-up costs. During COVID-19, she continues to struggle as the CEBA loan is unable to cover the costs of employing staff.

On any given day, Dina Helen Essoka balances a corporation dealing in both private security services and African food products. Essoka described a challenging debut for the business created just last year, finding difficulty in securing funding to cover the start-up costs. Essoka relied on her own out-of-pocket funds and soon, the business found its footing.  

“It was going really well until the pandemic came in,” Essoka told Yahoo Finance Canada, “Then everything just went down completely because I couldn’t have anybody come in anymore to pick up [foodstuff] and even the construction sites that we had promises to provide security services for had stopped work.”

Essoka was able to take advantage of the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), though she explained how the funding was insufficient for her to employ staff. This left her doing most of the work by herself and covering the costs of moving her food business to an e-commerce platform. In the face of a second wave in Canada’s major cities, costs like PPE and plexiglass are added expenses that businesses like Essoka’s will have to fund.

The federal supports for Black business owners, including a $53 million National Ecosystem Fund and Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund providing loans between $25,000 and $250,000, announced at the beginning of September give Essoka optimism.

“I will personally benefit from that because honestly it’s not been easy as a Black business owner,” Essoka said. “I think I have had some kind of restriction as a Black business owner. I’ve had several cases where I will be

Views of Ottawa, Ontario and the Canadian parliament buildings. (Photo by: Matthew Bailey/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Views of Ottawa, Ontario and the Canadian parliament buildings. (Photo by: Matthew Bailey/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

New home prices are up in most Canadian cities, despite the devastating economic effects of COVID-19, while resource-based markets continue to struggle.

Ottawa is the country’s hottest housing market for new builds, excluding condos and apartments, according to data in Statistics Canada’s New Housing Price Index. The agency says new house prices rose 5.3 per cent between February and August, due to strong demand and low supply.

The nation’s capital was already riding a wave of momentum before the virus, with a 9.5 per cent annual increase in February. Statistics Canada says the pre-pandemic strength may have been attributable to a foreign buyers tax in Toronto and Vancouver. 

Jason Ralph of Royal LePage Team Realty agrees with the assessment.

“New build home sales in Ottawa are being driven by an extremely tight resale market.  Many buyers are looking to buy new instead of competing in multiple offers with the potential of paying well above the asking price,” he told Yahoo Finance Canada.

“Ottawa has also seen a rise in investors looking for an alternative to Toronto and Vancouver, with the Foreign Buyer Tax still in place. To top it off, interest rates are historically low creating an incredibly strong market in the Nation’s Capital.”

Sumit Beri, works and lives in Ottawa and also thinks low interest rates will help push prices higher. He bought a new build last month as an investment.

“I didn’t want to get into bidding wars for older homes, so I thought buying a new build would give me more bang for my buck and capitalize on the appreciation of the home in a year,” he told Yahoo Finance Canada.

Beri says his decision had nothing