KITCHENER -- Over 19,000 people in Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge were out of work last month as the COVID-19 crisis began to take hold.

That’s an increase of 7.7 per cent compared to February.

The job losses in the region lifted the unemployment rate to six per cent, according to the Labour Force Survey released by Statistic Canada on Thursday morning.

The organization also reports that the Canadian economy lost a total of 1,011,000 jobs during the same time period, bringing the national unemployment rate up to 7.8 per cent, an increase of 2.2 percentage points.

That jump in the national unemployment rate marks the worst single-month change over the last 40-plus years of comparable data, and brings the rate to a level not seen since October 2010.

The data in the survey reflects employment conditions during the week of March 15 to 21.

Economists warn the numbers are likely to be even worse when the agency starts collecting April job figures, with millions more Canadians now receiving emergency federal aid.

Statistics Canada retooled some of its usual measures of counting employed, unemployed and "not in the labour force" to better gauge the effects of COVID-19 on the job market, which has been swift and harsh.

The number of people considered unemployed rose by 413,000 between February and March, almost all of it fuelled by temporary layoffs, meaning workers expected their jobs back within six months.

The jobs report also says that most of the losses were in the private sector, with the greatest employment declines observed for youth aged 15 to 24.