34,500 Alberta small business owners contemplating pulling the plug, putting 625,000 jobs at risk

#SmallBusinessEveryDay dashboard shows only 20 per cent of Alberta small businesses are making normal sales

Calgary, January 21, 2021 – One in five (34,500) Alberta small business owners are seriously contemplating permanently closing, putting more than 625,000 jobs at risk (41% of private sector jobs), estimates the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) in an update to its earlier estimate on business closures this past summer. Alberta continues to have the highest number of small businesses at risk of closing and the highest percentage of private sector jobs at risk. 

“2021 isn’t off to a great start for small business. After the tough financial and emotional slog to get through a historically difficult year, the beginning of 2021 feels more like the fifth quarter of 2020 than a new year,” said Laura Jones, CFIB’s executive vice-president. “It goes without saying that supporting local is more important than ever. Governments can also help small businesses replace subsidies with sales by introducing safe pathways for them to reopen to limited customers. There’s a lot at stake now from jobs, to tax revenue, to support for local soccer teams. Let’s make 2021 the year we help small business survive and then get back to thriving.” 

Businesses in the hospitality (restaurants, hotels, caterers) and arts and recreation (gyms, venues, arcades) sectors are most at risk, with roughly one in three businesses in both sectors actively considering closure across the country. Including businesses that became inactive in 2020, Canada could lose a total of 181,000 businesses (17 per cent), putting 2.4 million jobs at risk during this pandemic. 


Alberta Pending Closure Estimate

Low estimate



Mid-range estimate

34,500 (1 in 5)


High estimate


Alberta private sector jobs at risk

Low estimate



Mid-range estimate



High estimate


2020 inactive Canadian firms from Statistics Canada 



Total Canadian pending closure estimates

Low estimate



Mid-range estimate

181,127 (1 in 6)


High estimate


#SmallBusinessEveryDay dashboard update
The latest data on CFIB’s Small Business Recovery Dashboard underscore how precarious the situation for Alberta small businesses has become:

  • 60 per cent of Alberta small businesses are fully open (down from 63% at the beginning of December)
  • 39 per cent are fully staffed (no change from the beginning of December)
  • 20 per cent are making normal sales (down from 26% at the beginning of December)

 “Although there is still time for business owners to reverse course if conditions improve, it is alarming to see an increasing number considering permanent closure, compared to our first estimate last summer. We are not headed in the right direction and each week that passes without improvement on the business front pushes more owners to make that final decision. The more businesses that disappear, the more jobs we will lose and the harder it will be for the economy to recover,” said Simon Gaudreault, Senior Director of National Research at CFIB. 

Read CFIB’s full research snapshot for more details. 

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Annie Dormuth
CFIB, Alberta provincial affairs director

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 110,000 members across every industry and region, including 10,000 in Alberta. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at cfib.ca.

About #SmallBusinessEveryDay
The #SmallBusinessEveryDay campaign encourages local shopping, promotes initiatives to support small business and provides posters and other tools for businesses to use. It is supported by Scotiabank, Chase Merchant Services, eBay Canada, Intuit Canada and Interac Corp. To find out more about being a media sponsor please contact marketing@cfib.ca.