Canadian full-time jobs climb in March

Unemployment rate slips to 7.1 percent, Statistics Canada reports

April 8, 2016
The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA—The country’s labour market saw a surge in full-time and private-sector work last month, increases that helped drive the national unemployment rate down to 7.1 per cent, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The findings of the agency’s labour force survey offered fresh clues that Canada’s economy could be building momentum.

The job market generated 40,600 net new positions in March, lowering the jobless rate from its 7.3 per cent reading in February. This was the largest month-over-month increase since 43,100 jobs were added in October.

The details of the March data also showed encouraging signs because 35,300 of the net new jobs were full time, while the private sector created 65,100 positions.

The biggest gain was registered in services industries, which added 74,700 net new jobs.

“It gives us a picture of a job market that I think overall is pretty healthy given the current circumstances,” said Desjardins senior economist Jimmy Jean, referring to the struggles in the oil sector linked to the plunge in crude prices.

In the hard hit energy-rich region of Alberta, the provincial unemployment rate fell to 7.1 per cent in March compared to 7.9 per cent in February, thanks to more retail and wholesale trade positions. This change came despite the fact the jobless rate rose in both Calgary and Edmonton.

Calgary’s unemployment rate rose to 8.6 per cent from 8.4 per cent in February _ reaching its highest mark in at least 20 years. In Edmonton, the rate crept up to 6.9 per cent from 6.8 per cent. Statistics Canada cautions the figures for individual cities may fluctuate widely because they are based on small samples.

Overall, compared to 12 months earlier, Canada added 129,600 net new jobs, an increase of 0.7 per cent.

A consensus of economists had been predicting the country to add 10,000 net jobs overall in March and for the unemployment rate to stay at 7.3 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

Considering the significant economic challenges faced by the commodity sector, Jean was encouraged that the March report boosted Canada’s six-month average for monthly job gains to about 11,000. He said that, on average, the job market adds 16,000 positions per month under more-normal economic conditions.

Jean said the jobs numbers suggest the worst of the oil-price shock could be a thing of the past.

The March job gain follows other positive economic numbers since the start of 2016, including areas such as trade and retail sales.

“We can add the March labour market report to the growing list of the better-then-expected Canadian data in the first quarter,” said Frances Donald, senior economist at Manulife Asset Management.

“And not only is the headline number very strong, but the underlying details are mostly strong as well.”

Donald said the only “black mark” in the March survey was the reading for the manufacturing sector, which shrank by 1.8 per cent compared to February after it lost 31,800 jobs.

“This is disappointing because the economy is supposed to be rebalancing toward manufacturing,” said Donald, who added that it could be a blip in the data.

The country’s youth unemployment rate crept up 13.4 per cent last month, from 13.3 per cent in February.

The data also showed that self-employed positions across Canada fell by 22,000 last month, while the net number of employee jobs increased by 62,600.