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Labour Force Survey Analysis – September 2017

Ontario singlehandedly drive national employment gains

Although the pace of growth has slowed to a crawl, the Canadian economy continued to add new jobs in September, propelled forward by a surge in Ontario-based employment. All told, there were 10,000 net new jobs created last month – an increase that represents little more than a rounding error for an economy that employs 1.85 million people.  With little change in employment or labour force participation in September, the national jobless rate also held steady at 6.2 per cent.

After a tremendous run earlier in the year, economic activity across Canada is clearly slowing. In the third quarter of the year, Canada added just 43,200 total jobs – the smallest quarterly increase since the spring of 2016.

On the bright side, September’s job gains were the exact opposite of those in August, when a spike in part-time employment effectively cancelled out a relatively large drop in the number of full-time jobs. This time, there were 112,000 net new full-time positions created, offsetting a decline of 100,000 part-time jobs.  The two opposed blips suggest a statistical aberration rather than a meaningful employment trend.

Once again, Ontario was effectively the sole driver of national employment gains. The province added 34,700 net new jobs in September – enough to overcome losses in Quebec and across western Canada – while about 2,800 jobs were created in Atlantic Canada. In fact, Ontario is singlehandedly keeping the Canadian job market afloat. Since June, there have been 91,300 jobs created in that province, while there have been 48,100 net job losses across the rest of the country.

At the industry level, net employment gains were concentrated in goods-producing industries, which added 10,500 net positions. Employment in resource extraction, construction and manufacturing were all higher.

On the services side, overall employment was basically flat, but there were dramatic movements at the industry level. On the positive side, there was a spike in education employment as 20,000 net new jobs were created – mostly in Ontario and Quebec. While it is tempting to assume this represents the return of teachers to school, seasonal adjustments are usually able to factor such things in. There were also a large number of jobs created in wholesale and retail trade last month (16,600 net new positions). Offsetting those gains was a large drop in employment in information, culture and recreation industries (23,700 net job losses), as well as 10,400 fewer positions in health care and social services.                            

Manufacturing Sector Labour Market

August saw the end of a remarkable streak of employment growth in manufacturing – one which saw the sector add 65,700 jobs from February through July. After shedding 11,100 jobs in August, manufacturers began to bring some of those people back. Overall, there was an increase of about 2,300 manufacturing jobs across the country in September – a modest gain of about 0.1 per cent. 

Even with the surge in job creation earlier in the year, manufacturing employment growth continues to lag the all-industry average, reflecting an ongoing long-term trend of automation and efficiency-seeking. Through three quarters of 2017, manufacturing employment is tracking 0.9 per cent higher compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile, total employment across Canada is growing at about twice that rate.

Looking at manufacturing across the provinces, analysis is somewhat tricky for September because while national data show a gain of 2,300 jobs, the sum total of the 10 provinces suggests a loss of 5,300 positions. The gap is typically the result of seasonal adjustments that mean that figures do not always add up the way one might hope. While not unusual, it does make provincial-level analysis difficult in (relatively rare) instances such as this.  

Three provinces recorded manufacturing job gains in September – Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador – while employment was down elsewhere. Ontario added an estimated 7,000 manufacturing positions, helping to overcome summertime job losses. The increase in Newfoundland (1,500 jobs), meanwhile, is a significant spike for that province – it represents a jump of more than 17 per cent. Finally, Quebec and all four western provinces posted job losses in manufacturing last month. 

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