Today's economy

Canadian employment numbers continue to seesaw

By Kevin Press,

Canadian employment numbers continue to seesawCanada lost 29,000 jobs in April, after strong gains in March. It’s the third gain followed by a dip since November — but an uptick is forecast.

In what has become a disheartening pattern, Canada’s job market lost ground in April. New Statistics Canada data show a loss of 29,000 jobs in April; a big disappointment after the 43,000-job gain reported in March. It is the third time we’ve seen the monthly jobs number climb, only to slide the following month, since November 2013.

“The loss in April dropped the six-month average in job growth to 3,000 per month,” said Nick Exarhos, an economist at CIBC World Markets. He and I spoke on Monday. “Though we’re seeing an economic recovery, the recovery in jobs has been well beneath what we’d been expecting.”

The national unemployment rate held firm at 6.9%, but only because the labour participation rate fell from 66.2% in March to 66.1% in April. That’s down from 66.5% a year ago.

“It’s a very low number,” said Exarhos. The result is another indication of how unique this stop-and-start economic recovery is. “It’s not a regular business cycle.”

A few key results:

  • We lost 31,000 full-time jobs during the month. That broke a three-month winning streak; we haven’t seen a negative full-time number since December.
  • Four provinces had negative job growth. The list includes Quebec (-32,000 jobs), New Brunswick (-5,400), Newfoundland (-3,300) and Prince Edward Island (-1,200).
  • There were losses in multiple industries. Accommodation and food services was down 32,000 jobs. Finance, insurance, real estate and leasing dropped 19,000. On the other hand, employment in business, building and other support services rose 26,000.

Despite all the bad news, Exarhos said his firm is forecasting a turnaround this year. Watch for a year-end unemployment rate of 6.7%. To reach that target, the economy will have to produce an average of 20,000 additional jobs per month for the remainder of the year.

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