Feds’ hiring binge pushes Ottawa-Gatineau unemployment rate to five-year low

For illustrative purposes only.

The federal government’s local hiring spree showed no signs of stopping last month as higher public-sector employment pushed the local unemployment rate down to its lowest level since August 2011, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Locally, the federal government has added 23,200 employees since last July. Some 150,700 Ottawa and Gatineau residents now work for the federal government. That’s the highest level on file with Statistics Canada, which publishes local public administration figures dating back to January 2001.

This helped push the local unemployment rate down to 5.3 per cent in February, down from 5.7 per cent the previous month. That’s the lowest level since August 2011, when the unemployment stood at 5.2 per cent.

Tech employment, meanwhile, contracted for the fifth straight month. The closely watched industry now employs some 44,100 residents. That’s down from the two-year peak of 51,800 employees reached last September, but still up from 40,500 a year ago.

Nationally, Canada's unemployment rate dropped to 6.6 per cent last month, its lowest level in more than two years, as fewer people were looking for work.

The decline of 0.2 percentage points from the previous month brought the rate down to a number not seen since January 2015.

The agency's February employment survey indicated the national labour market added 15,300 jobs overall last month, higher than analyst expectations.

Economists had projected a gain of 2,500 jobs and the unemployment rate to stay at 6.8 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

The Statistics Canada report found most of the February job gains came from full-time work, offset by a decline in the number of people working part-time.

It said an estimated 105,000 more people found full-time employment last month while part-time positions dropped by 90,000. That was in contrast to the January labour market survey, which showed a surge in part-time work.

In the 12 months to February, Canada saw a net gain of 288,000 jobs with most of the increase coming in the last six months of 2016.

Much of the increased job activity was seen in the West with British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba all seeing gains.

In contrast, fewer people were working in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador while employment was little changed in the other five provinces.

Women in the 25-to-54 age bracket saw more work, marking the third monthly increase in that category. Men in the same age range saw employment holding steady in February after a notable increase the previous month.

Employment among youth aged 15 to 24 was little changed both in February and on a year-over-year basis. But with fewer young people seeking jobs, their unemployment rated declined by 0.9 percentage points to 12.4 per cent.

- With reporting by The Canadian Press