Unemployment rate holds steady nationally, little change regionally to end 2018

By Tyler Marr
January 4, 2019 - 12:00pm

Canada ended the year with its unemployment rate steady at a 43-year low of 5.6 per cent, according to Statistics Canada’s monthly labour force numbers.

The national agency said the country added 9,300 net new jobs in December, coming on a gain of 28,300 part-time positions and a drop of 18,900 full-time jobs. The growth follows a net uptick of 94,000 jobs in November, which was Canada’s largest monthly increase since March 2012.

Across the country in 2018, Statistics Canada reported employment growth by 163,000 or 0.9 per cent, a pace slower when compared with both 2017 and 2016, at 2.3 and 1.2 per cent, respectively.

Employment rose in Newfoundland and Labrador — edging the unemployment rate down to 11. 7 per cent — while it fell in Alberta, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Increases were recorded in manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, as well as in health care and social assistance. 

Saskatchewan saw a marginal net gain of 1,000 jobs in December, as part-time employment fell by 2,200 positions and full-time work crept up 2,300. This pushed the province's unemployment rate up to 5.6 per cent from 5.5, as the number of people unemployed grew alongside the labour force pool. This follows a net gain of 5,500 positions in November, which knocked the unemployment rate down by 0.7 points.

Employment rose by 1.9 per cent, or 11,000 positions, in 2018 across the province, entirely in full-time work. At the same time, the unemployment rate fell 0.9 percentage points. Gains were observed in several industries, led by agriculture.

In Prince Albert and Northern Saskatchewan, which includes numbers for our region, the job front remained relatively unchanged year-over-year, with the unemployment rate sliding up incrementally from 7 per cent in December 2017 to 7.3 per cent last month. This comes as the participation rate edged up to 65.4 per cent from 65.

In a note to clients Friday, CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes wrote that after a volatile year for the labour force survey, the latest reading showed signs of “smoother sailing to close out 2018,” as the release didn’t reverse any of the “explosive job creation” in November.

“Still the headline increase in employment won’t do much to brighten the mood in Canadian markets today, with some of the details far less encouraging,” he wrote. He pointed to job creation driven by self-employment and part-time labour in December.

Further, he highlighted how average hourly earnings held steady at 1.5 per cent, which he wrote doesn’t suggest the market is “producing the types of healthy wage gains that would be expected” with current record low levels of unemployment.

Bank of Montreal chief economist Douglas Porter wrote how today’s “so-so” report shows “an economy that remains very close to full employment, that’s now grinding out job gains roughly in line with labour force growth, and yet wage gains are just managing to roughly track underlying inflation.”

He noted a belief there was nothing in the report to prompt any near-term response from the Bank of Canada to raise interest rates. The central bank has pushed its benchmark rate north five times since the summer of 2017, with its next announcement set for Wednesday.

 

tyler.marr@jpbg.ca

On Twitter: @JournoMarr

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