Canada's jobless highest level in nearly 40 yearsChristian Fernsby ▼ | May 9, 2020
More than 3 million jobs have been lost in Canada since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the report released by Statistics Canada on Friday.
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Canada's unemployment rate also increased by 5.2 percentage points to 13 percent, the second-highest rate on record since December 1982.
In its monthly report, Statistics Canada noted that the national unemployment rate for April would have been nearly 18 percent had it included 1.1 million people who could not work because of COVID-related business closures and stopped looking for other employment.
To keep workers on the payroll, the Canadian government has run a subsidy program in which employers could receive support for 75 percent of an employee's wage of no more than 610 U.S. dollars per week for up to 12 weeks. But that program was set to expire on June 6.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters at his daily news conference on Friday that the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program would be extended "to help kick-start our economic reopening and boost jobs" and that more details would be released next week.
As of Thursday, 120,000 businesses applied for the wage-subsidy program to cover 1.7 million workers, while about 7.7 million Canadians applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit that runs until December and provides those out of work with 400 U.S. dollars a week for up to three months.
The drop in national unemployment is "unprecedented," said the Statistics Canada report, which noted that the 15.7-percent reduction in employment since February "far exceeds declines observed in previous labor-market downturns," such as during the 1981-82 recession that resulted in a total employment decrease of 5.4 percent over about 17 months.
According to the report, the number of people who were employed but worked less than half of their usual hours for reasons related to COVID-19 increased by 2.5 million from February to April.
As of the week of April 12, as a result of the cumulative effect of the COVID-19 economic shutdown, the number of Canadians who were either unemployed or working substantially reduced hours was 5.5 million, or more than one-quarter of February's employment level.
In April, year-over-year average hourly wages rose by nearly 11 percent, but Statistics Canada attributed that increase partly to employment declines in low-paying industries, such as the accommodation and food services sectors, and wholesale and retail trade. Those in the highest-paying industries, such as public administration and professional, and scientific and technical services, remained employed since they could continue to work from home. ■