KINGSTON -- The Kingston region is among the hardest-hit areas in the province during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new figures by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC).

In the OCC’s 2021 Economic Report, Kingston saw a "spike" in unemployment over the year, at 8.6 per cent. The report says 58 per cent of organizations in the Kingston-Pembroke region let staff go – a number that is slightly higher than the provincial average of 47 per cent.

Greater Kingston's Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer Karen Cross says the tourism sector took the brunt of the hit during the pandemic.

"Restaurants in our downtown core hit very hard, because tourism connects with that, our tourist attractions, things like our boat lines,” explains Cross.

That’s something Michael Tenenhouse has experienced. He owns "A One Clothing" on King Street in downtown Kingston, an outdoor clothing store that sells boots, and outdoor adventure gear.

He says he’s had to cut staffing levels during the pandemic, even though this usually would be one of his busiest times of the year.

"We have anywhere between eight to 10 staff, part and full time, working regular hours, at this point, we’re down to two to three," said Tenenhouse.

A One Clothing has been in business for more than 80 years, says Tenenhouse, but this year, has been the hardest.

"We’re doing our best, it’s tough. It’s tough for everyone," he tells CTV News Ottawa.

Cross says travel restrictions, including the closure of the Canada-U.S. border, have had a major impact on the region's economy.

"Local business downtown are hurt hard right now, we have our restaurants down there, our small retailer’s downtown, they’re doing curbside, they’re doing the best they can but it’s a difficult time there’s no question," said Cross.

Business confidence in the Ontario’s economic outlook is also at an all-time low, according to figures - at only 21 per cent.

Cross says it’s about supporting businesses, during a difficult time.

"Staying local, shopping local is a key message to residents," she says. "So please, our economy is driven by them so let’s keep it local."

Tenenhouse says that’s something he hopes to see for himself and local business owners.

"I hope that most retailers are able to make it through in order to see the business come back as soon as we can,"