MONTREAL - Nearly 300,000 lower-paying jobs were lost in Quebec in 2020 when the economy was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from the province’s statistics agency released Monday.

Those job losses affected women more than men. But during that same period, the province gained 105,000 jobs paying more than $30 an hour — and the majority of those jobs went to women.

That's a good sign, said Mia Homsy, CEO of Institut du Québec, a Montreal-based think tank.

"What makes me optimistic, looking at the new information in that report, is that women are highly represented in the new jobs that pay more than $30 per hour," Homsy said in an interview Monday, adding that many of those new jobs are in sectors where women represent less than half the workforce.

Quebec lost about 275,000 jobs that paid less than $20 an hour in 2020, the Institut de la statistique du Québec said in Monday's report. It found the majority of those job losses involved women working in the retail, hospitality and manufacturing sectors.

The report, based on data from Statistics Canada, found that 183,000 women lost jobs paying less than $20 an hour, compared to 90,000 men. The job losses were concentrated among workers aged 25 to 44, with 108,200 workers in that age group losing jobs that paid less than $20 an hour.

While the job losses were concentrated in specific sectors, there was a drop in the number of workers paid less than $20 an hour in every sector studied in the report.

"I think the main takeaway is that people with lower wages, lower skills, younger people, students are more vulnerable to changes in the economy," Homsy said.

When it came to new, higher-paying jobs, 67,000 women were hired in 2020 compared with 38,000 men. Around 40 per cent of the new jobs gained in 2020 were in the finance, insurance, real estate and rental industries, as well as the professional, scientific and technical services sectors.

Several sectors, such as retail, that lost large numbers of lower-paid workers also saw increases in the number of higher-wage workers employed. Homsy said she thinks that might be due to pandemic-driven shifts in the economy as businesses hire better-paid workers to help them adapt to online sales, for example.

She said the report shows that Quebec needs to rethink the way it approaches workplace training. "There's still a very large part of the labour force that does not have the required skills for the jobs that are coming," Homsy said.

The report also found that the number of unemployed women rose by 87,000 in 2020, compared to the number of unemployed men in Quebec, which rose by around 79,000.

Earlier on Monday, Quebecers aged 45 and up became eligible to book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine, and public health orders were eased in some cities, including Montreal.

The province said 37,490 doses of vaccine were administered Sunday, for a total of 3,256,401 doses; about 37.2 per cent of the population in Quebec has received at least one dose of vaccine.

Quebec reported 798 new cases of COVID-19 Monday — the lowest number of new, daily cases since March 23 — and two more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. No deaths were reported in the previous 24 hours.

The Health Department said the number of hospitalizations rose by 14, to 588, and that 151 people were in intensive care, a drop of six.

Meanwhile, Montreal police said Monday they issued 878 tickets for violations of the province's COVID-19 regulations between April 26 and May 2, including 511 for violations of the 8 p.m. curfew. Provincial police said they issued 628 tickets between April 26 and May 2, including 328 for curfew violations.

Quebec has reported a total of 352,678 cases of COVID-19 and 10,944 deaths linked to the virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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