OTTAWA — Statistics Canada reported Friday that the economy lost nearly two million jobs in April and the unemployment rate soared to 13.0 per cent as the full force of the pandemic hit. Here are five things from the report to know:
The 13-per-cent unemployment rate is bad at 13.0 per cent, but it doesn’t take into account the number of people who have stopped looking for work and dropped out of the labour force. The rate would be 17.8 per cent if those who worked recently and want to work, but aren’t actively looking, were included in the figures. The unemployment rate could rise in May when those sitting on the sidelines now start seeking jobs.
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All the provinces reported unemployment rates in the double-digits but Quebec, the province hardest hit by COVID-19, topped the list with 17 per cent — its highest rate since comparable data became available in 1976. In Montreal, the April unemployment rate was 18.2 per cent, eight percentage points higher than at the peak of the 2008-09 recession. The big swing is especially notable as the province had the lowest jobless rate before the pandemic at 4.5 per cent.
Statistics Canada says that 97 per cent of the newly unemployed in April were on temporary layoff, indicating that they expected to return to their former employer when the closure orders are relaxed. That’s different from previous recessions, where the majority of job losses were permanent.
The report says 2.4 million people were employed but absent for the full week that it did its labour force survey in April, an increase of 2.1 million compared with February. The number of people who worked some hours, but less than half of their usual hours, increased by 380,000, to bring the total increase in absences since February attributable to COVID-19 to 2.5 million. The total number of hours worked in April was down 14.9 per cent compared with March and down 27.7 per cent in February.
Average wages in April were up 10.8 per cent compared with a year ago. Economists say the increase in average wages is because of a disproportionate share of losses of jobs that pay lower wages has allowed the average to rise. The accommodation and food services and wholesale and retail trade sectors, two of the lowest-paying industries, have seen some of the largest losses.