National unemployment rate hits new record even as economy adds jobs

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OTTAWA -- Statistics Canada reports a record high unemployment rate as the economy added 289,600 jobs in May, with businesses reopening amid easing public health restrictions.

The unemployment rate rose to 13.7 per cent, topping the previous high of 13.1 per cent set in December 1982 in more than four decades of comparable data.

The increase in the unemployment rate came as more people started looking for work.

The average economist estimate was for a loss of 500,000 jobs in May and for the unemployment rate to rise to 15.0 per cent, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

The increase in the number of jobs comes after three million jobs were lost over March and April, and about 2.5 million more had their hours slashed.

Statistics Canada says the number of people who worked less than half their usual hours fell by 292,000 in May.

Combined with the increase in jobs, Statistics Canada says the country recovered 10.6 per cent of employment losses and absences related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The total number of unemployed Canadians doubled from February to April, a surge driven by temporary layoffs that the vast majority of workers expected to last less than six months.

At the same time, there was a spike in the number of people who wanted to work but weren't actively looking for a job, likely because the economic shutdown has limited job opportunities.

People not actively seeking work aren't counted in unemployment figures.

The unemployment rate for May would have been 19.6 per cent had the report counted among the unemployed those who stopped looking for work -- largely unchanged since April.

The Canadian Press

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