That, on top of an employment drop of over one million in March, brings the total job losses since the start of the COVID-19 shutdown to over three million, Statistics Canada said on Friday.
The agency said the unemployment rate soared to 13 per cent as the full force of the pandemic hit compared with 7.8 per cent in March. It was the second-highest unemployment rate on record.
Economists on average had expected a loss of four million jobs and an unemployment rate of 18 per cent, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.
The unemployment rate would have been 17.8 per cent had the agency’s labour force survey counted among the unemployed the 1.1 million who stopped looking for work — likely because the COVID-19 economic shutdown has limited job opportunities.
But the lockdown hasn’t hit all industries with the same intensity.
For example, two separate reports also released on Friday showed the construction sector has so far suffered relatively limited damage.
The number of new residential projects on which construction began in April recorded a relatively modest fall from 195,400 in March to 166,400 in April on an annualized basis, BMO economist Robert Kavcic said in a note to clients.
“Construction is one sector that appears to have skated through April with less damage than most, given softer restrictions and the ability to social distance on site,” Kavcic wrote.
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A separate release showed the number of new building permits fell 13.2 per cent in March, to an annualized 218,000.
That was “at the low end of the three-year range, but hardly depressed,” Kavcic said.
— With files from the Canadian Press