Canada lost nearly 2 million jobs in April, the biggest single-month drop on record. The plunge was largely due to the coronavirus, which pushed the unemployment rate to 13 per cent.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacted to the new data from Statistics Canada during his daily COVID-19 update.
“These numbers tell us what we already knew, that right now Canadians are hurting because of this pandemic,” said Trudeau.
“Everyone has their own story and it all boils down to a very difficult time for a lot people.”
Forecasters expected 4 million jobs would be lost.
“By any standard other than the forecast consensus, April was a disaster for Canada’s job market. Being so far beyond what we’ve seen in past recessions, it’s tempting to call this a depression, but that’s not an accurate depiction given that many of these job losses are temporary,” said Avery Shenfeld, CIBC chief economist, in a note.
“As those return, we’ll be left calling it a bad recession, one that needs some help from medical science, perhaps even more than economic policy, to really cure.”
More than 1.4 million jobs lost were full-time positions. The bulk of the jobs lost were in the service sector where more than 1.3 million people lost their jobs. Low-wage workers were hit the hardest, so the average wage rose by more than 10 per cent.
As an age group, losses among youth (aged 15 to 24) were the highest at 873,000 jobs lost from February to April.
The new data brings the total jobs losses over the past two months to around 3 million. But the damage is likely far worse since about 7.5 million people have applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
The number of people who were either not employed, or working substantially reduced hours, was 5.5 million. The number of homes where no family member is working jumped by more than 1.6 million.
More than one in five households said they’re having difficulty meeting immediate financial obligations.
An additional 3.3 million people shifted to working from home.
COVID-19 has hit Quebec the hardest. It lost 821,000 jobs in April, the most of any province.
Brendon Bernard, an economist at Indeed, says he’s waiting to see if April was a low point as provinces reopen their economies in the coming months.
“Applications for CERB have climbed further since mid-April, while job postings on Indeed have stabilized, but at levels far below last year's trend,” Bernard told Yahoo Finance Canada.
“As with daily life, it will be difficult for the job market to return to normal until the pandemic is firmly in the rear-view mirror.”
The U.S. economy lost more than 20 million jobs in April.
Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.