Nearly two million Canadians lost their jobs in April as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to ravage the economy.
The loss of 1,993,800 jobs comes on the heels of Canada shedding over one million jobs in March, bringing the total number of job losses since the start of the coronavirus shutdown to over three million, Statistics Canada announced Friday.
Statistics Canada said the country's unemployment rate increased by 5.2 percentage points to 13% in April, compared to 7.8% in March, marking the second-highest unemployment rate on record — after December 1982, when the rate reached 13.1%. The agency described the job losses as “unprecedented.”
The hit to the labour market came as the closure of non-essential services continued to devastate the economy and force businesses to shutter temporarily.
According to Statistics Canada, the spike in job losses was due to workers being temporarily laid off. In April alone, almost all (97%) of the newly-unemployed were on a temporary layoff (not seasonally adjusted), indicating that they expected to return to their former employer as the shutdown is relaxed.
What's more, over one-third (36.7%) of the labour force didn’t work or had reduced hours in April, illustrating the continuing impact of the COVID economic shutdown on the labour market, which Statistics Canada called an “underutilization rate” that was more than three times higher than in February before the pandemic struck.
Job losses weren't the only thing to have an impact on the labour market in April. According to Statistics Canada, in addition to those out of work, the number of people who were employed but worked less than half their usual hours because of the pandemic also increased, reaching 5.5 million — more than one-quarter of February's employment level.
The hardest-hit sectors in April include retail, hotels, restaurants, and bars, which continued to see losses in April. The losses in the service sector continued last month, down 1.4 million or 9.6%, while losses in the goods-producing sector were led by construction, which lost 314,000 jobs or -21.1% after being virtually unchanged in March, Statistics Canada said.
While job losses were felt across the country in April, employment dropped sharply from February to April in each of Canada's three largest census metropolitan areas. Montréal recorded the largest decline, losing 404,000 (-18%) jobs, followed by Vancouver with 256,000 job losses (-17.4%), and Toronto, down 539,000 jobs (-15.2%).