More than a million Canadians lost their jobs in March as the country closed to fight the coronavirus.
The data, released Thursday by the federal statistics agency, also pushes the unemployment rate to 7.8%.
March saw the largest loss of jobs in a single month since records began in 1976.
There have been 19,290 confirmed cases in Canada and 436 deaths, according to figures from John Hopkins University.
One day before Statistics Canada released the numbers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned citizens to prepare for “a hard day for the country.”
In his presentation Thursday after the new numbers were released, Trudeau said, “As striking as they are, these numbers are not a surprise. “
“We all knew it was going to be a difficult time,” he said, adding that other countries are facing similar problems due to the global pandemic.
Trudeau added that parts of the economy can expect to reopen during the summer after the first wave of infections. But he warned that small epidemics are expected to continue through the summer.
What do the figures show?
The report begins by saying that “measuring the labor market is not as usual” by the end of March.
According to Statistics Canada, 1,011,000 jobs were lost across the country, pushing the unemployment rate up from 2.2% to 7.8% compared to last month.
The unemployment rate for February was 5.6%.
Jessica Murphy of the BBC in Toronto
The reality that it will no longer be business as usual for a long time is beginning to set in for Canadians – and the latest numbers from grim jobs just highlight that there are tough times ahead.
The numbers come as the federal government – after days of media inquiries – released national projections for the spread of coronaviruses in the country. Canada has not been hit as hard as its neighbor to the south – just across the border, New York State is the US epicenter of the virus.
Yet the death toll from coronaviruses in the country could drop from 435 currently to between 11,000 and 22,000 by the end of the pandemic, officials said. Between 934,000 and 1.9 million people may be infected with the virus.
“The models are not crystal balls and we cannot predict the future with them,” Canadian Public Health Chief Theresa Tam said on Thursday.
A number of seniors’ residences have become hot spots as waves of viruses hit long-term care homes where it has proven difficult to contain.
Between March 15 and March 21, approximately 1.3 million people were unable to work due to Covid-19, the agency said.
An additional 800,000 people worked half an hour normally.
In total, around 3.1 million people have been affected either by job losses or reduced hours.
The country now has its lowest employment rate since April 1997.
The employment rate fell in all provinces, with Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec the hardest hit.
What was the reaction?
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce issued a statement describing the data as “expected” and “historically bad”.
“Countless additional jobs will be lost if we cannot get the wage help they need from employers urgently,” the groups said, warning that businesses were still weeks away from receiving financial assistance.
Canada has already lowered interest rates and put in place the country’s largest economic rescue plan.
Senior economist at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Royce Mendes, senior economist, said on Thursday that the accommodation and food services industries were the hardest hit by social distancing and forced closures instituted across Canada in mid-March.
Retail trade and education also fell, the CIBC said, adding that April’s figures should be even worse.
As part of a government bailout, companies that have lost more than 30% of their revenues are eligible for a wage subsidy of up to 75% of the wage bill.