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Ontario has now lost more than 1 million jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic

Approximately one out of every seven Ontarians who were working before the coronavirus pandemic hit the province have now lost their jobs, according to Statistics Canada’s latest national labour survey.

The figures released on Friday show the province lost 689,200 jobs during the month of April.

That means Ontario has now shed 1,092,000 jobs since February, the last month before restrictive measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus battered Canada’s economy.

Ontario’s unemployment rate also climbed to 11.3 per cent compared to 5.5 per cent in February, though Statistics Canada warns the current unemployment rate understates the true scope of the crisis, since many people are no longer actively looking for work.

Statistics Canada says the April report is the first of its monthly labour surveys to properly capture the shock caused by the virus.

Nationally, the economy lost nearly two million jobs last month for a total of more than three million since February. A further 2.5 million people are employed but working fewer than half their usual hours since February.

Canada’s national unemployment rate sits at 13 per cent.

“The magnitude of the decline in employment since February far exceeds declines observed in previous labour market downturns,” said the agency in its report, pointing to the 1981-82 recession in which Canada lost 612,000 jobs over nearly a year and a half.

Effects of restrictions rippling across more industries

Ontario declared a state of emergency on March 17 and followed by ordering the closure of all non-essential businesses on March 23.

The chart below shows the sectors hardest-hit since the arrival of the novel coronavirus. It includes industries such as manufacturing that have been deemed essential by the provincial government.

Ontario’s construction industry, which shed only 4,900 jobs in March, took a particularly heavy blow and lost 93,800 jobs in April.

The provincial manufacturing sector also shrank by 100,900 jobs after losing 31,600 in March.

“It’s widespread to the whole economy now,” said Jean-Paul Lam, an associate professor of economics at the University of Waterloo.

Lam said the scale and speed of the job losses is unmatched in Canadian history. He likened government interventions to combat the virus to putting the economy in a temporary induced coma, for which there is not yet a detailed recovery plan or schedule.

Recovering from the shock, he added, will likely require the development of an effective vaccine against COVID-19.

“We’re going to operate maybe at 70, 80 per cent economy for a while,” Lam said.

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