Economists expected the figure to reach 500,000 lost jobs, which would have been the worst month of job losses ever.
Each month, the data agency polls Canadians for one week.
March data is drawn from polls for the week that started March 15 – a tumultuous week for Canadian society, as Canadians moved from planning the March vacation to shelter within seven days and local businesses locked themselves in to try to contain the spread. of COVID-19.
According to Statistics Canada, 19.2 million Canadians had paid work in February.
But March data shows that more than a million of them did not do so the following month.
And the real picture of jobs is probably even worse. The data agency notes that in addition to the million people who became unemployed during the month, 1.3 million Canadians did not work paid hours because of the closings but technically considered themselves to have a employment.
In addition, 800,000 Canadians worked less than half of their usual workload.
The largest increase in the unemployment rate in 44 years
The huge drop in paid work pushed the unemployment rate up 2.2 percentage points to 7.8 percent. This is the largest monthly increase in the unemployment rate in records dating back to 1976.
According to Statistics Canada, the closest comparable sudden drop in economic activity and employment is likely the 1998 ice storm that saw businesses in Ontario and Quebec close suddenly and temporarily.
The ice storm caused 166,000 people in Canada to temporarily lose all or most of their paid work. The number of March was eight times that.
“Today’s numbers are just the first glimpse of the deep freeze on the Canadian labor market,” said Brendon Bernard, economist at the online labor market.
“After a month of social distancing, a colossal drop in employment in Canada is not a surprise, but its slope is still shocking”