Canada lost 2 million jobs in April as a result of pandemic-related shutdowns, by far the biggest decline on record but only about half what economists had expected.

The drop in employment adds to the 1 million decline in March. The jobless rate jumped to 13 per cent in April, the agency said Friday in Ottawa. Economists were anticipating a loss of 4 million jobs last month, with the unemployment rate rising to 18 per cent.

The data provide the most complete picture yet of how nationwide lockdowns are affecting the Canadian economy, which has been hammered by two shocks -- the COVID-19 pandemic and tumbling oil prices that have devastated the energy sector.

Bloomberg News first reported the 2 million job loss figure earlier Friday morning, citing a person familiar with the data who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Canadian dollar gained on the news, rising 0.2 per cent to $1.3941 per U.S. dollar at 8:10 a.m.

READ MORE: BNN Bloomberg's jobs tracker

Business closures have also been more widespread than in the U.S. European economies meanwhile have seen the effect of job losses mitigated by generous furlough programs, a policy that is only now being rolled out in Canada.

But Friday’s numbers suggest government measures are working to cushion the blow.

A new wage subsidy program is expected to entice companies to bring back some workers, while provinces have begun outlining plans to reopen parts of the economy to allow more businesses to operate in the coming weeks.

About 7.6 million Canadians -- or more than one-third of the pre-crisis labor force -- have applied for benefits under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which pays recipients $2,000 per month.

The government allows people to earn as much as $1,000 a month while still drawing the benefit, which may have kept more people employed than anticipated, the person said.

Job-posting data also suggest the labour market carnage may have plateaued. While postings are down significantly on a year-over-year basis, they started to level off toward the end of April, figures from Indeed Canada show. Another strong signal is that the number of people seeking income benefits seems to have peaked.

Yet, it’s unclear how quickly the economy will recover given the unprecedented scale of the downturn and the anxious mood among consumers. A recent survey found more than one in three Canadians anticipate spending less on discretionary items than they did pre-crisis, even after lockdowns lift.

The nation also relies more heavily on small and medium-sized businesses that are less resilient to a shock this size.