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Canada Loses 207,000 Jobs in April, Unemployment Rate Climbs to 8.1% -- Update

05/07/2021 | 09:35am EDT

By Paul Vieira

OTTAWA--Canadian employment declined in April after two straight months of robust job growth, the result of a fresh round of economic restrictions in three of Canada's biggest provinces to contain a deadly third wave of Covid-19 infections.

The country's labor market lost a net 207,000 jobs in April on a seasonally adjusted basis, Statistics Canada said Friday. Market expectations were for the economy to lose 162,500 jobs, according to economists with TD Securities.

The unemployment rate rose to 8.1% in April from March's 7.5% reading. Expectations were for the unemployment rate to climb to 7.8%. Total hours worked fell 2.7% in April, driven by declines in educational services, hospitality and retail trade.

With the April data, Canadian employment is now 2.6% below prepandemic levels. In March, employment was 1.5% below February, 2020 levels, or before the pandemic hit North America in earnest.

"Better days are ahead for the Canadian labor market, but it may take a little longer to get there," said Sri Thanabalasingam, economist at TD Bank.

U.S. jobs data, meanwhile, reported that employers added 266,000 jobs in April, although the unemployment rose to 6.1%. Canada's unemployment rate, when calculated using U.S. Labor Department methodology, sits at 6.8%.

The data agency said April's job losses were concentrated in Ontario and British Columbia, in industries most affected by the tightening of public-health restrictions. Quebec also introduced tougher measures.

Since early April, Canada's seven-day average of new, confirmed Covid-19 cases on a per-capita basis has eclipsed the U.S. Canada's level of new cases have leveled off, although restrictions remain in place for all of Ontario, the country's most-populous province, and are expected to remain for most of May.

"More job losses could show up in the next report," said Royce Mendes, economist at CIBC Capital Markets.

The Bank of Canada said last month the impact of the pandemic's third wave on the economy would be material but temporary, as the vaccine rollout continues and businesses and consumers adapt to virus-related restrictions. The central bank has pulled forward its guidance on when it could next raise the key rate, to as soon as late next year, and announced plans to slow the pace of its bond buying in light of an improved economic outlook.

Statistics Canada said virtually all of the employment decline in April was among private-sector employees, down 203,700. The ranks of the self-employed rose by nearly 10,000, which helped offset those losses. Private-sector employment is now, as of April, down 4.1% below prepandemic levels.

The labor underutilization rate, which captures the full range of people who are available and want to work, rose 2.3 percentage points to 17.0% in April, or still above prepandemic levels.

Write to Paul Vieira at paul.vieira@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

05-07-21 0934ET

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