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2013 Employment Trends…So Far

People thinking about employment trends

Job numbers in Canada: January – May 2013

In early June, Statistics Canada released its job numbers for May, reporting a gain of 95,000 – one of the largest monthly job gains in decades, which pushed the general unemployment rate down to 7.1% from 7.2%. Almost 77,000 of those jobs were full-time and in the private sector. This good news follows StatsCan’s dismal job numbers just a couple of months earlier that claimed a loss of 54,500 jobs in March – which was the worst loss in over four years, essentially nullifying the 50,700 gain that was seen in February. The latest peak in this rollercoaster of datasets has prompted reports, and even an announcement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, alerting Canadians to the wide margins of error in StatsCan’s June report, which, according to some, may have overestimated May’s job gains by as much as 53,400. However, despite the volatile job numbers and StatsCan’s margins of error, general trends in employment for now seem positive with the prime minister noting that Canada has to this day gained a net one million jobs since the onset of the Great Recession.

Job numbers vs. job quality

StatsCan’s job numbers for May have also prompted reports on the quality of those jobs. While the majority of them are said to be full-time and in the private sector, trends in employment quality, says CIBC, are declining. According to the bank’s Canadian Employment Quality Index, which measures trends in full-time vs. part-time employment, paid vs. self-employment, and relative compensation, part-time workers have increased by 56% since 1988, while full-time workers have only increased by 37%. Likewise, self-employment rose 56% while paid employment rose only by a little over 30%. However, the most troubling numbers, says CIBC, relate to growth in high-paying industry jobs vs. low-paying industry jobs. According to the index, since the late 1980s, high-paying full-time jobs in Canada grew by only 5%, while mid- to low-paying jobs have grown by 40%. These downward trends in employment quality are virtually nationwide, with Alberta and Saskatchewan being the only provinces whose employment quality has increased due to their robust resources industries.

Where the jobs are – and where they’re going

The lack of employment quality in most provinces actually parallels their lacklustre job numbers. Despite StatsCan’s report of job gains in May, most of those gains were in Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. Other provinces did not fare as well, especially in Atlantic Canada which is seeing a lot of migration west. For example, according to UK-based search engine, Adzuna, there are only 4.4 job seekers per job posting in Saskatoon, 5.2 in Nanaimo, 5.7 in Kamloops and Winnipeg, and 6.1 in Regina. In Cape Breton, there are 55.5. However, it’s important to note that, despite Ontario’s job gains, some of the most overcrowded job markets are in fact in Ontario, with the Niagara region leading the way at almost 100 job seekers per job posting. Kitchener-Waterloo has 73.4, Oshawa has 52.5, Windsor has 26.8, and London has 22.6.

Western Canada isn’t the only region drawing talent from the east. Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and Yukon also have positive trends in employment with job numbers booming. In fact, as of 2011, Yukon had the highest employment rate in the country at nearly 70%.

Regarding specific industries, manufacturing fared worst, continuing its seven-month decline with another loss of 14,200 jobs in May, bringing the total amount of manufacturing jobs lost in the past year to almost 100,000. On an apparent upswing, however, is construction, which, despite recent losses and predictions of further losses due to slowing housing starts, gained 43,000 jobs. The pickup may be attributed to an increase in business rather than residential construction. The retail and wholesale industry also saw job numbers increase significantly by 27,000.

Trends in employment and job numbers for youth

The job numbers for May might be signaling some positive trends in employment for Canada’s youth (ages 15 to 24). 54,000 of the jobs gained in May were in their age group, pushing the youth unemployment rate down to 13.6%. Comparatively, however, Canada’s core worker demographic (ages 25 to 54) saw virtually no significant increase in job numbers.

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