Ottawa-Gatineau employment hits 12-month low

Ottawa

The number of people working in the National Capital Region sunk to its lowest level in a year last month as tech, government and tourism employers collectively reduced their payrolls, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

September’s job report marked the third straight month that employment levels in Ottawa-Gatineau declined. There were 720,400 people employed last month, the smallest figure since September 2016.

However, the region’s unemployment rate declined to 5.8 per cent, down from 5.9 per cent in August, due to a contraction in the size of the labour force.

The region’s largest employer, the federal government, shed 800 jobs in September while the closely watched tech sector contracted by 700 position.

Declines were also recorded in Ottawa’s accommodation and food industry, as well as the broader services sector.

Across the country, the labour market posted a 10th-straight month of net job gains in September to match the economy's longest monthly streak since the financial crisis almost a decade ago.

The national unemployment rate stayed at a nine-year low of 6.2 per cent after Canada added 10,000 net new jobs, including a surge of 112,000 full-time positions. The rise in full-time work more than offset a drop of 102,000 part-time jobs.

Wage growth also perked up in the latest survey, a long-awaited development after it remained surprisingly low earlier in the year despite the steady tightening of the country's job market.

Experts underlined a lot of positives in a jobs report that arrived amid recent signs suggesting the economy is already starting to cool down, as widely expected, following red-hot start to the year.

“The underlying story is the economy is still churning out jobs at a pretty solid pace, the unemployment rate is slowly but surely grinding down and, yes, the majority of the job gains actually are in full-time positions,” BMO chief economist Doug Porter said in an interview.

“So, I would categorize this as a robust report. The headline number isn't that impressive, but the details were quite impressive.”

On average hourly wages, Porter said last month's 2.2 per cent year-over-year growth “isn't going to knock anybody's socks off,” but he noted the number does mark a comeback from some mysteriously soft numbers earlier in the year.

Scotiabank's Derek Holt said wage growth has seen some considerable gains in recent months and was only 0.5 per cent as recently as April.

“There is serious consideration to be given to the argument that the Bank of Canada is behind wage and price pressures that may be starting to spiral upward,” Holt wrote Friday in a research note to clients.

He said the squeeze could lead the inflation-targeting central bank towards another interest-rate hike as early as October.

Overall, Holt called the quality of the job growth “solid.”

CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld had a different take on the report.

He said Canada's job market was “ho-hum” last month and in line with other signals of a moderation in economic growth.

In a note to clients, Shenfeld suggested that weighs against the probability of a third interest rate hike this year from the Bank of Canada.

The jobs report Friday showed an increase in factory work as the goods-producing sector added 10,500 jobs, compared to a loss of 500 positions in the services industry.

The survey detected a gain of 10,800 paid employee jobs, while the number of people who described themselves as self-employed, including unpaid workers in family businesses, fell by 800.

Employee positions in the public-sector saw a gain of 26,200, while the number of private-sector employee jobs fell by 15,500.

Statistics Canada said Ontario gained 34,700 jobs in September for its fourth monthly increase in five months and, compared to a year earlier, the province's employment was 2.4 per cent higher. Manitoba shed 5,500 positions for its first notable decline since April 2016, the report said.

Overall, the national numbers show that Canada's year-over-year employment expanded 1.8 per cent with the addition of 319,700 net new jobs, of which more than 90 per cent were full-time positions.

The run of 10-consecutive months of job creation marked the country's longest streak of total employment gains since February 2008.

- With reporting by the Canadian Press