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Quebec unemployment rate soars to 17%, highest ever recorded

The COVID-19 crisis has decimated Quebec’s economy, with the province recording its highest unemployment rate since at least 1976, when the data was first tracked.

The province lost an estimated 821,000 jobs in April, bringing the unemployment rate to 17 per cent.

Quebec now has the highest unemployment rate of all the provinces, according to the Statistics Canada labour survey for April.

Only two months ago, in February, Quebec’s economy was humming along with an unemployment rate of 4.5 per cent — its lowest ever since 1976.

Quebec, which now leads Canada in COVID-19 cases, shut down all but essential businesses on March 23 in an effort to curb the spread.

Construction in Quebec was particularly impacted by that shutdown, with employment in the sector declining by 39 per cent in April.

In all, four sectors — construction, manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade and accommodation and food services — made up 59 per cent of total job losses as compared to April 2019.

The province is now trying to slowly reopen the economy. Residential construction resumed April 20, and all other construction industry worksites will be back up and running on Monday.

Overall, the Canadian economy lost almost two million jobs in April, also a record high.

In all, more than one-third of the labour force didn’t work or had reduced hours in April, an “underutilization rate” that was more than three times higher than in February, before the pandemic struck.

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