After a rough 2020 during the pandemic’s first wave, the year 2021 showed signs of normalcy with access to vaccines, high vaccination rates, and border reopenings. However, the year also faced significant supply disruption due to supply-demand imbalance, followed by a big setback due to a new variant, Omicron towards the year-end.

CTVNews.ca gathered data from the start of the pandemic in 2020 to reflect the changes wrought by COVID-19 that shaped our lives in 2021. We relied on data available on Statistics Canada to create five charts to capture a bigger picture of the year that was.

The analysis looks at how the pandemic impacted travel, employment, inflation, as well as tracking the progression of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and vaccinations from the start of the first wave until now.

1. Travel picked up but at a moderate pace

After a big drop in travel in March 2020 due to lockdowns, the country recorded its biggest drop in domestic travel in February 2021. This year also saw layoffs in the airline industry as travel traffic reduced due to low air traffic. However, more people chose domestic travel over foreign. travelled within Canada than outside.

The biggest drop in international travel was during the first wave in 2020 and even though more visitors resumed their travels abroad this year, the traffic has been far below pre-pandemic levels. not been at pre-pandemic levels.

According to Statistics Canada, even as travel picked up, it contributed little towards COVID-19 transmission. At least 68 per cent of COVID-19 cases came from community settings since the start of the pandemic and less than one per cent came from travel.

 

2. Inflation rose but was disrupted by supply chain disruption and the new variant

The consumer price index (CPI) rose to an 18-year high of 4.7 per cent in November of this year, according to Statistics Canada. Last year, the CPI was at 1 per cent. To put things in perspective, the Bank of Canada aims to keep inflation at the 2 per cent midpoint of an inflation-control target range of 1 to 3 per cent. The index is the most relevant measure of the cost of living for most Canadians because it is made up of goods and services that Canadians typically buy, such as food, housing, transportation, furniture, clothing, recreation, and other items.

The year 2021 saw a shift in consumption patterns from last year.

According to the Bank of Canada, after the initial wave of the pandemic, spending on goods recovered faster than the spending on services. Though the consumption of services recovered around the same time, it still remained 4 per cent below the pre-pandemic level through to the beginning of 2021. This unusual shift in consumption pattern resulted in an extraordinary strain on global shipping networks such as transportation costs and demand for shipping containers.

These bottlenecks were later magnified because many businesses responded to shortages by ordering their goods not only earlier, but also in greater quantities. With demand getting stronger than expected under normal business conditions, the supply strains intensified during 2021.

The chart below highlights the change in inflation in major sectors like food, housing gas, and transportation. The Bank of Canada is keeping a close eye on inflation. In a recent press conference, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada Toni Gravelle said unique recovery disrupted the supply chain in 2021. In 2021, supply constraints have pushed the prices up. Food inflation reached 4.4 per cent in 2021, a big jump from 1.9 per cent last year. However, high energy prices contributed towards one-third of the high inflation in November this year. The Bank of Canada noted that the rebound in demand for hard-to-distance services and supply constraints also contributed to pushing prices higher.

3. COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations

With the first case of Omicron detected in Canada on Nov. 28, 2021, significant efforts have been made to encourage vaccine booster shots along with prolonging pandemic restrictions in some provinces. As of Dec. 29, 2021, Canada recorded more than 2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 30,353 recorded deaths.

Since the start of the vaccine campaign in December 2020, 79.4 per cent of people who had COVID-19 were unvaccinated at the time of their first episode and 9.9 per cent were fully vaccinated as of Dec. 4, 2021.

The chart below highlights the cases during the waves of daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the country during 2021, along with patients admitted in the ICU and those mechanically ventilated. Canada recorded the most hospital admissions during the beginning of 2021 with close to 4,000 patients. This was the highest number since the start of the pandemic.

4. Unemployment rate reached pre-pandemic levels

With businesses recovering and more jobs being added, the unemployment rate started dropping from March in 2021. In the third quarter of 2021, the number of job vacancies in Canada reached an all-time high of 912,600.

According to a recent labor report by Statistics Canada, employment rose to 186,000, which is higher than the pre-COVID level in February 2020.

Close to the year-end, the unemployment rate fell 0.7 points from the previous month to 6 per cent in November—the sixth consecutive monthly drop and the largest decline since March 2021.

This year, the unemployment rate at the lowest level since February 2020 (as seen in the chart below)

5. Vaccination coverage for five and above and expansion of booster shots

In November 2021, Canada authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine for kids between five and 11 years of age. The approved vaccine has a smaller dose than the one approved for 12 years and above. However, it remains unclear how long the protection lasts. The COVID-19 vaccination program began on Dec. 14 last year with five COVID-19 vaccines being approved for use in Canada. The chart below looks at the shift in vaccination dosage. According to Statistics Canada, 76.79 per cent of the population across the country is fully vaccinated.