Ottawa-Gatineau's jobless rate drops to 4.3% in May

Hiring sign

Ottawa-Gatineau’s economy added nearly 10,000 jobs in May, helping push the region’s unemployment rate near historic lows as a hiring boom in multiple industries more than offset the rush of people entering the workforce.

The National Capital Region’s jobless rate dipped to 4.3 per cent last month, Statistics Canada said Friday, down from 4.6 per cent in April and just off the 20-year low of 4.1 per cent set last December.

The total number of employed residents in Ottawa-Gatineau rose from 795,500 in April to 805,200 last month. Those gains came as the size of the region’s labour force, which includes people actively searching for jobs, jumped from 833,600 to 841,800 in the same period.

Meanwhile, the participation rate – which compares the size of the region’s labour force to the region’s population of working-age residents – also continued to climb. It rose to 68.3 per cent in May, up from 67.8 per cent in April and 66.6 per cent in March as it bounces back from a slide that saw the rate drop from nearly 70 per cent in the middle of last year.

As in April, May’s gains in the three-month rolling employment average were spread across a range of sectors as the economy continued to grow despite soaring inflation that has forced the Bank of Canada to start raising interest rates in a bid to keep price increases in check.

After adding 6,600 net jobs in April, the public administration sector kept rolling last month, generating an additional 6,300 positions. 

Professional services, real estate post gains

Other sectors that posted significant gains included professional, scientific and technical services, which added a net 4,900 jobs, and information, culture and recreation, which grew by a net 3,800 positions. 

The real estate, finance and insurance sector showed mounting strength with a net gain of 1,900 jobs, while the accommodation and food services sector continued its steady rebound since most pandemic restrictions were lifted, gaining 1,700 jobs. Educational services also posted a gain of 1,600 jobs.

The high-tech industry’s job rolls also increased for the second straight month as one of the region’s key economic drivers added a net 700 positions.

Nationally, the economy added 40,000 jobs in May, driven by a gain in full-time jobs as the labour market continued to tighten and wages pushed higher, Statistics Canada said.

The increase came as the unemployment rate fell to 5.1 per cent, the lowest rate since at least 1976, which is as far back as comparable data goes. The unemployment rate was 5.2 per cent in April.

TD Bank senior economist James Orlando said as Canadians headed out to patios and hit the road for overdue vacations, employers continued to search for workers to meet heightened demand.

“This has job vacancy rates at record levels, making it clear that the Canadian economy is operating beyond full employment,” Orlando wrote in a report.

Statistics Canada said Friday average hourly wages for all employees rose 3.9 per cent on a year-over-year basis in May, compared with an increase of 3.3 per cent in April.

Full-time jobs increase

The jobs report follows a decision by the Bank of Canada last week to raise its key interest rate by half a percentage point to 1.5 per cent in an effort to help bring inflation back under control.

The annual pace of inflation rose to 6.8 per cent in April, the fastest year-over-year rise in 31 years.

“With more people employed and wage growth climbing, the strength in domestic demand will be sufficient to keep inflation as a thorn in the side of the Bank of Canada,” Orlando wrote.

The overall gain in jobs in May came as the number of full-time jobs climbed by 135,000, but part-time employment fell by 96,000.

The services sector saw a gain of 81,000 jobs as accommodation and food services added 20,000 positions.

The number of professional, scientific and technical services jobs grew by 21,000, while educational services gained 24,000 positions and retail trade added 34,000 jobs in the month.

Transportation and warehousing lost 25,000 jobs, while the number of finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing jobs fell by 19,000.

Meanwhile, the goods-producing sector lost 41,000 jobs in the month as 43,000 manufacturing jobs were lost.

Long-term unemployment, people who had been searching for work or had been on temporary layoff for 27 weeks or more, accounted for 19.7 per cent of total unemployment in May compared with 15.6 per cent in February 2020. 

– With additional reporting from the Canadian Press