VANCOUVER -- With the novel coronavirus pandemic spreading worldwide leading to business closures and job losses, Statistics Canada has reported some grim unemployment rates here in B.C.

According to the federal government, B.C. saw 7.2 per cent unemployment in March. In February, the unemployment rate for the province was five per cent.

In total, 132,000 jobs were lost in the province.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on people and economies around the world. British Columbia is no exception, which is evident in the number of lost jobs in this month’s labour force survey," said B.C. Finance Minister Carole James in a news release.

“We know today’s numbers reflect the initial impacts of the pandemic, and a fuller picture will become clear in next month’s report."

James said the province is working to support residents who have lost work because of the pandemic. 

"We will continue to monitor the impacts of COVID-19 and are committed to doing what it takes to support people and businesses in B.C," she said.  

B.C.'s unemployment rate is a little lower than national numbers, as Canada's rate overall was at 7.8 per cent in March. Most provinces had higher rates than here, with B.C. only having a higher rate than Manitoba. 

In a news conference Thursday, Premier John Horgan said he's "concerned by the massive uptick in unemployment" across the country and in B.C.

But Horgan said the province is looking ahead at what steps can be taken once restrictions related to the pandemic are lifted.

"When the all clear comes and we have a better sense of public health being covered off, we can then get back to the important work of restarting the economy," he said.  

On a more local level, Statistics Canada took a sampling of unemployment rates in some B.C. cities. In Abbotsford-Mission, the rate went down slightly from 4.7 per cent in February to 4.6 per cent in March. 

That wasn't the case in Kelowna, however, which saw its unemployment climb from 5.3 per cent in February to 5.9 last month. 

Vancouver saw 5.3 per cent of its residents unemployed in March, up from 4.4 in February. The province's capital also saw higher rates last month with 4.6 per cent unemployed, up from 3.4 per cent. 

With files from The Canadian Press

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