Employment fell by more than one million in March (-1,011,000 or -5.3%). The employment rate—or the proportion of people aged 15 and older who were employed—fell 3.3 percentage points to 58.5%, the lowest rate since April 1997.

Of those who were employed in March, the number who did not work any hours during the reference week (March 15 to 21) increased by 1.3 million, while the number who worked less than half of their usual hours increased by 800,000. These increases in absences from work can be attributed to COVID-19 and bring the total number of Canadians who were affected by either job loss or reduced hours to 3.1 million.

The unemployment rate increased by 2.2 percentage points to 7.8%, the largest one-month increase since comparable data became available in 1976. Unemployment increased by 413,000 (+36.4%), largely due to temporary layoffs. In addition, the number of Canadians who had worked recently and wanted to work, but did not meet the official definition of unemployed, increased by 193,000.