TORONTO — Ontario lost more than 355,000 jobs last year - the single largest annual decline on record - due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the province's fiscal watchdog said Thursday.,In addition to the job losses, more than 765,000 Ontarians saw their work hours reduced, Financial Accountability Officer Peter Weltman said in a new report that looked at the impact COVID-19 and the public health measures to fight it have had on communities.,"We've seen a lot of people exit the labour force because a lot of them weren't going to look for jobs in areas that have been hammered, or had other concerns about going back into a labor force while there was a pandemic in play.",Ontario has gone through two lockdown periods in the pandemic where public health measures have restricted business operations across the province.,Deputy Premier Christine Elliott said the government's focus has been on protecting the health and safety of people in the province, but called the job losses "concerning".

Mural artists Brian Peterson, left, and Damin Lujan of Santa Ana created a 35-by-40-foot mural depicting Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers on a building overlooking the parking lot of Philippe the Original sandwich shop in Los Angeles.,(Photo courtesy of Brian Peterson and Damin Lujan)

David Ahn stands beneath the mural of Kobe Bryant and Mookie Betts he commissioned to be painted on the side of his building at 686 N. Spring St. in Los Angeles, CA.,(Photo by Andy Holzman) read more

“The (West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission), (Tuesday), sent out a proposed winter and spring sports calendar to our schools based upon the governor’s orders,” Dellinger said.,The WVSSAC is allowing spring sports to begin practice on March 15, a week earlier than the tentative date in Berkeley County.,The initial schedule sent out by the WVSSAC, after working with the West Virginia Department of Education and the governor’s office, indicated that winter sports practices could begin Feb. 15, and the first contests for girls basketball, wrestling and swimming would be March 3, with boys basketball starting at the end of that week.,The source said winter sports practice in Berkeley County would not be allowed to start until March 1, which would limit the number of contests that can take place and put the sports teams in the county behind teams throughout West Virginia.,Berkeley County has been red on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources map for the vast majority of late fall into winter, the district going red on the now-defunct WVDE Saturday map for the first time on Nov. 21.

The average rate on the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate home loan rose to 2.79% this week from a record low of 2.65% last week.,Long-term bond yields, which can influence interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, are climbing this month amid expectations of higher U.S. government spending on pandemic relief and an economy recovery as more people get vaccinated for COVID-19.,The average rate on the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate home loan rose to 2.79% this week from a record low of 2.65% last week, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac.,McBride forecasts that the average rate on a 30-year mortgage will rise to 3.1% by the end of the year.,Of course, rising mortgage rates diminish homebuyers’ buying power, especially as home prices continue to rise.