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Manufacturing drives strong labour market performance in May

Published by Brad Fougere on June 05, 2015

Labour Force Survey Comments – May 2015

Canadian Labour Market

Canadian labour markets posted their strongest showing in months in May, led by a surge in manufacturing employment in Ontario. All tolled, the Canadian economy gained nearly 59,000 net new jobs in May – a 0.3 per cent increase over April levels. It is still far too early to say whether this surge represents the first signs of  the long-awaited turnaround in the Canadian economy – especially considering April’s dismal trade figures, but it is worth noting that only once in the past two-and-a-half years has the Canadian economy added more jobs in a single month.


The increase in employment – which was evenly split between full- and part-time jobs – was not enough to budge the unemployment rate, however. An increase in the number of Canadians looking for work kept the unemployment rate steady for the fourth month in a row, at 6.8 per cent.

In spite of the growth in May, Canada’s labour markets for 2015 as a whole have remained decidedly sluggish. Through five months, employment has increased by just 0.8 per cent over the same period last year.

While there was a sharp decline in public sector employment in May, most other sectors of the labour market performed well. Leading the way was the manufacturing sector, which added 21,500 net new jobs for the month – an increase of 1.3 per cent over April. Health care (20,700) also saw strong growth, adding 20,700 jobs, and the trade sector rebounded from April, replacing most of the 20,500 jobs it lost last month. Other significant gainers included finance, insurance and other business service industries. On the other side of the spectrum, construction activity in Canada continues to slow, and employment in agriculture and forestry dipped as well.

At the provincial level, job gains were entirely concentrated in three provinces – Ontario, BC and Nova Scotia. All other province saw employment stay flat or decline last month. While Ontario added the most new jobs, it was BC that posted the most rapid increase – with a 1.4 per cent jump in employment in May. Those gains were more than enough to offset BC’s weak labour market showing in April. For its part, Ontario added a nation-leading 43,900 net new jobs, translating into a 0.6 per cent increase for the month.  At the other end of the spectrum, employment fell relatively sharply in Atlantic Canada (outside Nova Scotia) and dipped slightly in the prairie provinces.

For the year to date, however, Manitoba and Alberta have been Canada’s job growth leaders, with increases of 2.3 per cent and 2.1 per cent, respectively, through the first five months of 2015 compared to the same period last year. This trend is likely to change in the coming months, however, as the Alberta economy continues to struggle not only with lower oil prices and capital spending, but also wildfires in the north of the province, which are interfering with oil production.

Manufacturing Sector Labour Market


The 21,500 net new manufacturing jobs added in May represents the second consecutive month of job gains for the sector, after a steady stream of losses through much of 2014 and into the current year. Manufacturing employment is back to its highest level since last February – totalling 1.72 million jobs across the country. As a result of May’s increase, the unemployment rate in manufacturing fell to a very tight 4.2 per cent.

Even so, the losses mentioned above mean that, for the year as a whole, manufacturing employment remains below last year’s level. Through five months of 2015, employment in the sector is, on average, 1.0 per cent lower than it was during the same period last year. However, the two recent months of job gains add new momentum to Canadian manufacturing. Barring significant losses in the next month, the picture for manufacturing job creating in 2015 could turn around quickly.


Provincially, the job gains in manufacturing were heavily concentrated in Ontario – welcome relief for a sector that has struggled with significant job losses since late 2013. The province added 15,700 net new manufacturing positions in May – an increase of 2.1 per cent over the previous month. BC and Manitoba also saw strong gains, while employment was up slightly in Quebec and New Brunswick. Meanwhile, Saskatchewan’s manufacturing sector continues to struggle in 2015 and weakness persists in Alberta and Nova Scotia as well.


On a year-to-date basis, BC remains Canada’s runaway leader in manufacturing job growth. Through the first five months of the year, manufacturing employment is up 8.1 per cent compared to last year, led by significant gains in the lower mainland and Okanagan regions of the province.  

Found in: StatsCan

National Office

Alberta British Columbia
Manitoba New Brunswick
Newfoundland & Labrador Nova Scotia
Ontario Québec
Prince Edward Island Saskatchewan