Quick Take

September sees large employment gains, though uncertainty remains

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The Conference Board of Canada economist, Kiefer Van Mulligen, offers insights on September’s Labour Force Survey (LFS):

National employment levels continued their recovery at a stronger pace in September. Employment remained lower than pre-pandemic February in all provinces. Canada has now recovered approximately 2.3 million of the 3.0 million jobs lost during the pandemic. However, the impact of reinstated public health measures in some provinces throughout the last month may not be fully reflected in September’s data. Uncertainty remains high over how strong the recovery in employment will be. With new cases of COVID-19 rising in many provinces, some industries will likely experience a second decline (or much slower recovery) in the coming months.

  • Employment continued to rise in September, increasing by 378,000 jobs. This growth was led by a gain of 334,000 full-time jobs. While this represents a 2.1 per cent increase in employment, a large increase in new cases of COVID-19 throughout the month suggest that October’s levels will be lower.
  • The national unemployment rate fell to 9.0 per cent in September, as the labour force (+163,900) continued to grow by much less than employment.
  • By province, Ontario saw the largest increase in jobs (+167,600). Quebec (+76,700) and British Columbia (+54,800) also saw large gains.
  • In percentage terms, Nova Scotia saw the largest increase in employment (+2.7 per cent), adding 12,000 jobs in September. Ontario and British Columbia also saw significant percentage gains (2.4 per cent and 2.3 per cent, respectively).
  • Despite being on the path to recovery over the past several months, Prince Edward Island saw a decline in total employment in September (–1.0 per cent). It was the only province to lose ground last month and now has the largest gap in employment (–6.3 per cent) compared to February levels. Employment in wholesale and retail trade fell in September, and the province’s accommodation and food services sector remain weak.
  • New Brunswick gained 2,200 jobs in September after posting declines in total employment in both July and August. Employment in the province remains approximately 3.0 per cent below its February level.
  • In terms of September’s employment level compared to February, Manitoba (–1.8 per cent), Quebec (–2.6 per cent) and Saskatchewan (–2.8 per cent) were furthest along in their recoveries last month. With the reinstatement of stricter public health measures—most notably in Quebec—it is unlikely that progress in closing these gaps will continue in October.
  • Aside from Prince Edward Island, Alberta (down 5.4 per cent) and Ontario (down 4.2 per cent) were the furthest from a full recovery in September.
  • Services-producing industries saw employment rise by 303,100, while employment in goods-producing industries rose by 75,100.
  • In September, utilities (+6,800), professional, scientific and technical services (+28,200), and educational services (+68,300) saw employment push beyond February levels.
  • Several industries remain far from pre-pandemic levels of employment. Employment in wholesale and retail trade—one of the hardest-hit sectors since February—fell in September after posting steady gains since May. Accommodations and food services (down 15.3 per cent since February) and agriculture (down 9.7 per cent since February) remain the furthest from a complete recovery.

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Kiefer Van Mulligen

Kiefer Van Mulligen

Economist

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