Labour Force Survey Analysis – November 2017

Ontario and manufacturers drive impressive job gains in November

After a listless summer for labour markets and the economy in general, things appear to be picking up again as the year draws to a close. Job creation roared back to life in November with the addition of 79,500 net new positions across the country. That marks the single largest month-over-month increase in employment in more than five and a half years.

As a result, Canada’s unemployment rate dipped below 6.0 per cent for the first time since February 2008, dropping from 6.3 per cent in October to 5.9 per cent last month.

Buoyed by November’s surge, Canada is poised to have a relatively good year on the job creation front in 2017. Through 11 months, employment across the country has risen by 1.8 per cent compared to the same period last year. While this number may not seem especially high, it is worth noting that Canada’s working-age population has only grown by 1.1 per cent over that same period. As a result, there are nearly 170,000 fewer unemployed Canadians today than there were a year ago.

The one small disappointment is that the majority of new jobs in November were part-time. Part-time employment rose by about 50,000, compared to 29,600 net new full-time positions. Even so, about 81 per cent of all jobs created so far in 2017 have been full-time – which is exactly in line with the distribution of total employment between part-time and full-time positions.

It was also a good month on the job-creation front in BC, where the province added 18,200 new jobs (up 0.7 per cent) in November. Employment was also higher in Quebec, Alberta, Nova Scotia and PEI. Meanwhile, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador all saw employment fall after unusual spikes in October.

There was actually very little employment growth in most industries in November; the increase was heavily concentrated in just four sectors – wholesale and retail trade; manufacturing; construction; and education services. All told, there were 106,100 net new jobs in those four areas and 26,600 fewer positions elsewhere.

Leading the way on the positive side was the addition of 38,800 new trade-related jobs, while manufacturing employment jumped by more than 30,000. As noted above, the increase in education was largely the result of Ontario college teachers returning to work. On the down side, employment was lower in professional service (9,900 fewer jobs), agriculture (5,800), health care (3,400) and other services (6,800). 

Manufacturing Sector Labour Market

Manufacturing employment exploded in November. The addition of 30,400 new positions represents the single largest monthly increase in manufacturing jobs in Canada in almost 16 years. Driving gains was the end of the GM strike in Ontario, combined with the fact that the company itself ramped up production in November to make up for its low inventories that were depleted during the work stoppage. 

Even though some of the spike may prove to be temporary, the increase in employment is unambiguously good news for a sector where the number of jobs has been flat or declining for years. Through 11 months, manufacturing employment is tracking 1.5 per cent higher compared to the same period in 2016. There are now just under 1.8 million Canadians employed in manufacturing – the highest number since the summer of 2012.

The one bit of bad news is that the spike in employment has driven the jobless rate in manufacturing down to dangerous levels. Unemployment in manufacturing has always been well below the all-industry average, but strong job growth and relatively few entrants into the manufacturing labour force have squeezed businesses that were already contending with chronic labour and skills shortages. In the last 12 months, the unemployment rate in manufacturing has fallen from 5.0 per cent to just 2.6 per cent. That jobless rate is well below what is usually considered to be “full employment” and could result in severe labour shortages or wage inflation if it continues for any length of time.

Across Canada, manufacturing jobs gains were fairly widespread with employment up in seven provinces and down in three. However, the lion’s share of new jobs was in Ontario and Quebec. In Ontario, for reasons already mentioned, manufacturing employment rose by 15,300 jobs, while another 13,100 were added in Quebec. BC, Manitoba, and New Brunswick were the only provinces where the number of manufacturing jobs fell in November.

With just one month left in 2017, Saskatchewan is poised to be Canada’s manufacturing job growth leader for the year. Through November, manufacturing employment in the province is up 9.8 per cent compared to last year. There have also been considerable gains in PEI (6.8 per cent) and Nova Scotia (5.0 per cent). Only Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador are likely to have had fewer manufacturing jobs in 2017 compared to 2016.

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