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Canada jobless rate surges to 7.8% due to pandemic 

Empty tables at a restauraunt in Quebec on March 31, 2020. Canada shed more than a million jobs in March as coronavirus shutdowns hit its economy - Benedicte Brocard / ©AFP
Empty tables at a restauraunt in Quebec on March 31, 2020. Canada shed more than a million jobs in March as coronavirus shutdowns hit its economy - Benedicte Brocard / ©AFP

(AFP)

Canada’s unemployment rate shot up to 7.8 percent last month, its biggest monthly increase in more than 40 years, as the economy bled jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic, the government said Thursday.

The 2.2 percentage point increase from February was the biggest monthly rise since 1976, Statistics Canada said.

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The Canadian economy shed more than a million jobs in March as companies furloughed workers, the agency continued.

The figures reflect “unprecedented government interventions related to COVID-19 — including the closure of non-essential businesses, travel restrictions, and public health measures directing Canadians to limit public interactions,” Statistics Canada said.

“These interventions resulted in a dramatic slowdown in economic activity and a sudden shock to the Canadian labour market.”

It also warned of a worsening impact in April data.

Analysts from the CIBC bank said that the data caught “only a tiny hint of what’s to come, as both the US and Canada will be well into double-digit unemployment rates by April.”

In the US, business shutdowns caused by the pandemic caused 6.6 million US workers to apply for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

That massive number of first-time claims for jobless benefits in the week ending April 4 came on top of the previous week’s count of 6.9 million.

In Canada, the most marked increase in unemployment was recorded in Quebec (+3.6 points, to 8.1 percent), a province which accounts for half of the country’s coronavirus cases.

Employment fell more sharply among employees in the private sector (-6.7 percent) than among those in the public sector (-3.7 percent).

The largest employment declines were registered in accommodation and food services, information, culture and recreation, and education.

Among young people aged 15 to 24, the unemployment rate rose to 16.8 percent, an increase of 6.5 points.

As of Thursday morning the virus had killed 476 people in Canada, according to figures provided by provincial authorities.

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