Unemployment read more

Road to recovery?

Canada’s unemployment rate drops to a two-year low, with full-time jobs leading the charge

Here’s what you need to know about unemployment in Canada

Canada’s unemployment rate is now at a two-year low of 6.6 percent, according to the latest jobs report released by Statistics Canada early Friday morning. That’s a good thing, because it could mean that we’re slowly but surely inching out of the oil recession we’ve been in for the past two and a half years.

What’s interesting about this month’s jobs report, above and beyond the unemployment rate, is the number of full-time jobs that were added to the Canadian economy — a whopping 105,000. This offset the decline in the number of part-time jobs (90,000), which is essentially the kind of trend economists would like to be seeing in our economy.

“A robust trend in hiring has begun to emerge, reinforced by gains in full-time work,” said a note by TD Economics. “If there’s a fly in the ointment, it has to be the ongoing declines in hours worked. This suggests that even with strong gains in full-time work, the jobs being created may be at the lower end of the hours scale.”

As I explained in an earlier piece on jobs, the phenomenon of precarious employment (a direct product of the ironically-termed “sharing economy”) is a real danger to Canada’s long-term growth. Temporary employment has been steadily rising since the 2008 recession, in part because workers are playing catch-up, taking on a series of seemingly never-ending part-time jobs after having lost full-time jobs back in 2008/2009.

The other interesting point about today’s jobs report is the trend in manufacturing versus service jobs. It’s a well-known fact that the developed world has trended away from blue collar jobs, because of the cheap labour advantage developing countries like China, Bangladesh and Vietnam offer to multinational corporations. This continues to be evident in Canada. The manufacturing sector lost 5,000 jobs in February while the services sector, led by the gains in public administration jobs, added 30,000 positions to the economy.

That’s not altogether a bad thing, provided that we have, at our disposal, enough Canadians equipped with the skill-set to transition from manufacturing to service sector jobs.

One final point to note — simply adding jobs to our economy isn’t sufficient for building equitable growth if wages continue to be stagnant. Canadians need to have the disposable income and spending power to boost economic growth. As Manulife Asset Management economist Frances Donald notes in this tweet, don’t get fooled by strong job numbers. The fact that wage growth is slowing, is something the public and private sector needs to address.

Cover: Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

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