MONTREAL -- Quebec's workforce was battered by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, with the province shedding some 264,000 jobs, according to Statistics Canada.

That sent the province's unemployment rate soaring to 8.1 per cent, up from 4.5 per cent the previous month.

Quebec's job losses in March were second in Canada, behind only Ontario, which lost some 403,000 jobs, sending its unemployment rate up to 7.6 per cent from 5.5 per cent in February.

The StatCan numbers released Thursday showed that more than a million Canadians lost their jobs last month, the first in whch the bracing economic impact of COVID-19 was felt.

Quebec's unemployment rate in March was slightly higher than the national unemployment rate of 7.8 per cent.