VANCOUVER -- New employment numbers released by Statistics Canada painted a bleak picture across the country.

According to Statistics Canada's monthly labour force survey, B.C.'s unemployment rate was at 11.5 per cent in April – up from 7.2 per cent the month before. Nationwide, the rate was 13 per cent, up from 7.8. 

"We've all seen the evidence around us that COVID-19 is affecting every sector of our economy, which is of course powered by people," Finance Minister Carole James said in a briefing Friday morning. "This survey is another stark reminder of the challenges we are facing."

In total, the Canadian economy lost nearly two million jobs in the month of April alone, while B.C. lost 264,000. Over the months of March and April, nearly 400,000 jobs were lost. 

"Let's remember those jobs are people, they're families, they're businesses that have been impacted severely," James said. 

James said jobs in the food services, wholesale and retail trade are the hardest hit by the pandemic, with 47 per cent of the job losses in March and April in these sectors.

She also said in the past week, more than 400,000 applications have been received and approved for B.C.'s emergency benefit for workers, available to those eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. 

On a more local level, at least four B.C. cities also saw their unemployment rates go up from March to April:

  • Vancouver 7.5 per cent (up from 5.3)
  • Kelowna 8.1 per cent (up from 5.9)
  • Abbotsford-Mission 5.9 per cent (up from 4.6)
  • Victoria 7.2 per cent (up from 4.6)

While James said B.C.'s reopening plan is a promising "light at the end of the tunnel," she added it's hard to know if this is the worst unemployment rate the province will see during the pandemic. 

"I think we've got a hard road ahead, I don't want to sugar coat this," she said. 

"But I'm also confident that with the work that's happening, with the work we're seeing around the restart and the way businesses are stepping up to the plate … I'm confident we're going to see some very strong work and start to see that recovery occur." 

 With files from The Canadian Press 

Watch an American Sign Language translation of the news conference on the provincial government's YouTube page.