Canada's job picture dims

The Canadian Press
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Canada’s jobs market continues to sputter as the economy gave back some of January’s gains by shedding 7,000 workers overall in February, a disappointment to those hoping for a strong start to the year.
The loss was tiny in relative terms and insufficient to alter the 7.0 per cent unemployment rate.

But after last week’s news of stronger fourth-quarter economic growth than forecasted, and a gain of 29,000 jobs in January, economists had expected February would also see a gain in the order of about 15,000 jobs.

The bottom line looked worse than the underlying details — which included a pickup in full-time employment and private sector hiring — but it was sufficiently soft, especially when put up against the 175,000 job gain in the U.S., for markets to sell down the Canadian dollar.

The loonie fell almost three-quarters of a cent to 90.26 cents US as the news was released Friday, giving back most of the gains of the past week.

The setback in February continued a pattern of up and down months in the Canadian labour market, which has been virtually stalled since last August.

While the last 12 months has seen a pick-up of 95,000 workers, Statistics Canada noted “there has been little overall employment growth in Canada since August 2013.”

“Looking through the typical see-saw pattern in Canadian employment, there is little doubt that underlying trends are cooling, with job totals up a modest 0.5 per cent from a year ago and the unemployment rate seemingly stuck at 7.0 per cent,” said Doug Porter, chief economist with BMO Capital Markets.

“I wouldn’t expect a whole lot more in the year ahead as we see this so-called rotation away from housing and consumer spending to exports and business investment,” he added.

As troubling, added Porter, is that almost all the job growth in the past year has occurred in Alberta, with other regions left picking up the scraps.

Porter says monthly regional breakdowns are notoriously unreliable because of the larger sampling error factor in the survey, but a year-long look usually tells a true tale.

What the long-view shows is that Alberta has picked up 82,000 jobs compared with a year ago, an increase of 3.8 per cent of the workforce, while Ontario and Saskatchewan gained 29,000 and 5,000 jobs respectively. All other provinces have lost jobs, except for New Brunswick which broke even.

The general malaise is reflected in the employment rate, which held steady at 61.6 per cent, still about two percentage points below the pre-recession highs. This means that almost five years removed from the recession, there are still hundreds of thousands fewer workers in Canada relative to the population that before the slump.

But economists also noted that the underlying details were much more positive. Full-time employment rose by 18,900 and private sector jobs increased by 35,200. Offsetting the gains were sharp drops in part-time jobs and a massive falloff of 51,000 government jobs.

Scotiabank economists Derek Holt and Dov Zigler said the one-month public service plunge was likely exaggerated, given that the sector only lost 41,000 for the full year.

 

—By Julian Beltrame

 

 

STATISTICS:

Canada’s national unemployment rate was 7.0 per cent in February. Here’s what happened provincially (previous month in brackets):

— Newfoundland 11.8 (12.0)

— Prince Edward Island 11.5 (11.3)

— Nova Scotia 8.9 (8.6)

— New Brunswick 9.8 (9.9)

— Quebec 7.8 (7.5)

— Ontario 7.5 (7.5)

— Manitoba 5.3 (5.6)

— Saskatchewan 3.9 (4.3)

— Alberta 4.3 (4.6)

— British Columbia 6.4 (6.4)

 

 

Statistics Canada also released seasonally adjusted, three-month moving average unemployment rates for major cities but cautions the figures may fluctuate widely because they are based on small statistical samples. (Previous month in brackets.)

— St. John’s, N.L. 5.3 (5.6)

— Halifax 6.7 (6.8)

— Moncton, N.B. 6.9 (7.0)

— Saint John, N.B. 6.6 (6.4)

— Saguenay, Que. 8.4 (7.5)

— Quebec 4.1 (4.3)

— Sherbrooke, Que. 7.4 (7.1)

— Trois-Rivieres, Que. 8.5 (8.7)

— Montreal 8.1 (7.9)

— Gatineau, Que. 6.7 (6.8)

— Ottawa 6.5 (6.3)

— Kingston, Ont. 6.3 (6.6)

— Peterborough, Ont. 8.7 (7.5)

— Oshawa, Ont. 7.3 (7.2)

— Toronto 8.3 (8.4)

— Hamilton, Ont. 5.9 (6.0)

— St. Catharines-Niagara, Ont. 8.5 (8.8)

— Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo, Ont. 6.5 (6.4)

— Brantford, Ont. 7.1 (5.9)

— Guelph, Ont. 7.0 (7.3)

— London, Ont. 8.0 (7.9)

— Windsor, Ont. 7.2 (6.9)

— Barrie, Ont. 6.6 (6.2)

— Sudbury, Ont. 7.0 (6.8)

— Thunder Bay, Ont. 5.6 (5.7)

— Winnipeg 5.6 (5.8)

— Regina 4.0 (4.4)

— Saskatoon 4.4 (4.3)

— Calgary 4.7 (4.8)

— Edmonton 5.1 (5.5)

— Kelowna, B.C. 6.5 (7.3)

— Abbotsford, B.C. 8.5 (8.0)

— Vancouver 6.2 (6.3)

— Victoria 5.4 (4.9)

 

 

Organizations: Statistics Canada, BMO Capital Markets, Scotiabank

Geographic location: Canada, U.S., Alberta Ontario Saskatchewan New Brunswick

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