Why you shouldn’t overreact to January’s labour market slump

By Staff, with files from The Canadian Press | February 9, 2018 | Last updated on February 9, 2018
2 min read

The number of jobs in Canada fell by 88,000 in January to give the labour market its steepest one-month drop in nine years, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The overall number was dragged down by a loss of 137,000 part-time positions in what was easily the category’s largest one-month collapse since the agency started gathering the data in 1976.

Statistics Canada’s latest jobs survey said the net decline helped push the national unemployment rate up to 5.9% in January, from a revised 5.8% the previous month.

But on the other hand, the agency said the economy generated 49,000 full-time positions last month.

“Overall, a mysterious mix of good and bad, with the latter’s impact blunted by how strong job gains were in the lead-up to these figures,” CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld wrote in a research note to clients.

“January saw an [88,000] drop in employment, reversing about half of the spectacular gains we registered late last year. But the details [are] also looking wonky, with all of the job losses in part-time work,” he said.

Read: ‘Party is not over yet’ for Canada’s unemployment rate: report

Even with the overall decline in January, Canada has been on a strong run of job creation that has seen the country add 414,100 full-time jobs over a 12-month period. The growth represents an increase of 2.8%.

Over that same period, the number of less desirable part-time positions declined by 125,400 or 3.5%.

The January reading marks the end of a 13-month streak of job gains—about half of those positive numbers were within the survey’s margin of error.

James Marple, senior economist at TD Bank, said in a data commentary note that the numbers don’t “change the story for the Canadian economy much. The unemployment rate is still low, with the economy remaining close to full employment.”

Marple also forecasts that today’s jobs report “doesn’t much change the outlook for the Bank of Canada, but suggests a more rational pace of job growth consistent with an economy that is moving toward a more neutral pace of growth after a very robust year.”

Read: IMF hikes growth outlook for Canada, world

A closer look at the data revealed that the number of paid employee positions dropped by 112,000.By comparison, the number of people who identified as self-employed workers—often seen as a less desirable category that includes unpaid work in a family business—increased last month by 23,900.

Wage growth also received a boost in January, a month that saw Ontario lift its minimum wage. Compared with the year before, average hourly wages for permanent employees expanded 3.3%.

By region, the agency said Ontario and Quebec saw the biggest decreases last month, while New Brunswick and Manitoba also had net losses.

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Staff, with files from The Canadian Press

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