TORONTO -- Premier Doug Ford told Ontarians Friday that job losses “weigh heavy” on his heart as new numbers hit home the severity of the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, but still urged people to be hopeful.

Ontario’s unemployment rate currently sits at 11.3 per cent, just slightly better than the new national unemployment rate of 13 per cent released by Statistics Canada Friday.

In Toronto, the unemployment rate sits at 10.3 per cent, while the situation is even worse in the 905, where unemployment sits at 11.7 per cent.

The number of people who are unemployed in Toronto grew by 29,400 from March to April. Province-wide, 822, 400 people are now without work, an increase of more than 236,000 people from March.

“Today’s job numbers weigh heavy on my heart,” Ford said at a news conference Friday. “People have lost their jobs. They don’t know if they’ll make rent next month. They’re worried about making ends meet. We know people are struggling and today’s numbers hit close to home. These are more than just statistics.”

The grim numbers come the same day that the province begins to reopen some businesses. Garden centres and nurseries are being allowed to open today, as well as practice facilities for professional sports teams.

Hardware and safety supply stores will be allowed to open Saturday, while non-essential retail businesses with a street-facing entrance can reopen for curbside pickup Monday.

Businesses that are reopening must still follow public safety guidelines around social distancing, contactless payment and hand washing.

Like other regions, the province has struggled to balance the health disaster of the pandemic with the accompanying financial catastrophe.

Ontario has opted for a staged approach to reopening businesses and Ford tried to reassure people Friday that there is reason to be optimistic.

“We must keep fighting. We must keep going. You must support each other through these difficult times. Believe me, my friends, there’s a light at the end of this dark tunnel,” he said.

The premier nevertheless warned as well that there are still “dark days ahead.”

Ontario’s Minister of Finance Rod Phillips spoke alongside Ford Friday and also struck a hopeful note for the long-term prospects of the province while acknowledging that we are still in the midst of a crisis.

“We will come back. This province will come back stronger than ever,” Phillips said. “But right now we are in the middle of a global health crisis and the middle of a global economic crisis that is worse than has been the case in my lifetime.

“So we’re all going to have to work together and we will come through it together but together we have to keep looking ahead at the actions we can all take to get the health crisis under control.”

He acknowledged that “specific answers as to when we will recover are questions nobody can answer unless they have a crystal ball and if they do I’d like to borrow it.”  

Provincial health officials are reporting 477 new cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, along with 63 more deaths.