Quick Take

Canada’s labour market strength continues

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The Conference Board of Canada’s Senior Economist Cory Renner offers the following insights on today's Labour Force Survey (LFS):

This month’s labour force survey was a piece of good news at a time Canadians desperately needed it. Despite the impact of rail blockades, the coronavirus and sluggish economic growth, Canada’s labour market kept humming along. February saw everything we’d like in a report: strong job growth, an expanding labour force and solid wage growth. While the full effects of the coronavirus may still be ahead of us, lower interest rates combined with a healthy labour market means household spending could help Canada’s economy weather the storm.

  • Employment rose by 30,300 in February. The increase was led by 37,600 new full-time jobs. Part-time employment fell by 7,300.
  • This month’s increase marks the third consecutive month where jobs rose by more than 27,000 – a clear sign Canada’s labour market continues to be strong.
  • February’s job gains were strongest in Quebec (+20,000), Alberta (+11,400) and Nova Scotia (+3,700). Meanwhile, British Columbia (-6,500) and Ontario (-3,200) were the only provinces to lose jobs this past month.
  • By industry, job growth was strongest in wholesale and retail trade (+22,600) and manufacturing (+16,000) and other services (+7,800).
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  • Interestingly, employment in accommodation and food services saw its third largest monthly decline (-13,300) since 2014, an early indication that the coronavirus is having an impact on Canada’s tourism industry.
  • On a more positive note, Canada’s labour force rose by 39,700 people, supported by a growing labour force over the age of 55.
  • Because the labour force rose by slightly more than employment, the unemployment rate ticked up 0.1 points, to 5.6 per cent. Despite the increase, labour market conditions remain tight.
  • The tight labour market is contributing to strong wage growth. Average hourly wages are up 4.1 per cent compared to last February. While it’s a small decrease from the 4.2 per cent year-over-year rise in January, it is still well above inflation.
  • Overall, this month’s labour force survey provides good news at a time when many other indicators suggest economic growth is weakening. In particular, this report showed solid job growth, strong labour force growth and a robust increase in wages. While the economic risks are plentiful across Canada’s economy, it seems that Canadians can take comfort in a strong labour market.
  • It’s worth noting that this month’s survey was conducted before concerns over the coronavirus hit their peak. As a result, next month’s survey will give a better indication of the virus’ impacts on Canada’s labour market.
 Sam Goucher

Cory Renner

Economist, Industrial Economic Trends

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