TORONTO (AP) -- Canada lost a worse-than-expected 61,300 jobs in March as the unemployment rate jumped to the highest level in seven years.
The loss brought Canada's official unemployment rate to eight percent.
Statistics Canada noted that since October employment has fallen each month for a total of 357,000. That represents 2.1 percent of the work force. That's the biggest five-month decline since a deep recession in 1982.
The 61,300 jobs lost in March are worse than the 55,000 job losses economists expected.
The U.S.-equivalent based on labor market size would be 613,000 jobs lost. The U.S. labor market is about 10 times the size of Canada's.
The global credit crisis and the sell-off of commodities have hit Canada hard. Alberta's once-booming oil sands sector has cooled as every major company has scrapped or delayed some expansion plans.
The release of the March report follows February's 83,000 contraction and January's record 129,000.
"While not quite as horrid as the two prior months, this report leaves little doubt that we remain deep in the heart of the recession," said Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets.
Economists have said Canada entered the downturn later other countries and that Canada's performance typically lags the U.S. by six months. Canada and the U.S share the largest trading relationship in the world. More than 70 percent of Canada's exports go to the U.S.
"Deleveraging in the U.S. and elsewhere is hitting Canada through the back door by bringing down trade volumes," Scotia Capital economist Derek Holt said.