Ottawa-Gatineau's jobless rate drops to 5.1% in October

Peace Tower autumn

The local economy shed more than 10,000 jobs in October, but Ottawa-Gatineau’s jobless rate still fell as the labour force continued to shrink.

The region’s unemployment rate was 5.1 per cent last month, down from 5.5 per cent in September, Statistics Canada said Friday. That’s the lowest the rate has been since the dawn of the pandemic in March 2020, but not because the local economy is firing on all cylinders.

Total employment in Ottawa-Gatineau stood at 757,700 in October, a decline of 10,900 jobs from the previous month. However, those losses were offset by a drop of 15,500 in the city’s labour force, which includes people looking for work. 

October marked the third consecutive monthly decline in the size of the labour force as more potential workers gave up their job search. It represents another step back for the local economy, which revved up as COVID-related restrictions were eased over the summer but has since stalled.

Several sectors took big hits in October. 

Real estate shed a net 3,800 jobs, while manufacturing saw a net drop of 3,600 positions. The region’s biggest employer, the public administration sector, lost a net 3,300 jobs. The reeling retail sector also continued its downward slide, losing 1,000 jobs.

Construction gains

On the flip side, the biggest gainers were the construction and the accommodation and food services sectors, which both added 1,600 positions. Other industries that grew last month included health care and tech, which both gained 1,500 jobs.

Nationally, the economy added 31,000 jobs in October, Statistics Canada said, bringing the country’s unemployment rate to a pandemic-era low.

Unemployment came in at 6.7 per cent, down from 6.9 per cent in September, to mark the fifth consecutive monthly decline in the rate.

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate would have been 8.7 per cent in October, down from 8.9 per cent in September, had it not included in its calculations Canadians who wanted to work but didn't search for a job.

Gains were seen across a number of industries, including the hard-hit retail sector, but offset by declines elsewhere, such as accommodation and food services. Retail trade added 72,000 jobs in October, which Statistics Canada notes pushed the industry back to its pre-pandemic levels for the first time since March.

Self-employment falls

The statistics agency also notes a decline in self-employment, but suggests some of those people moved to more permanent and in-demand jobs such as those in the professional, scientific and technical services sectors.

Statistics Canada also says the ranks of Canada's long-term unemployed, those who have been out of work for six months or more, was little changed in October at almost 380,000.

Leah Nord, senior director of workforce strategies for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, says October's jobs report points to the uphill climb that remains before the labour market fully heals from COVID-19.

She notes that there are almost 900,000 job vacancies that need to be filled, adding that task is going to be more difficult than recovering the three million jobs lost at the onset of the pandemic, which the country achieved in September.

“The fact is the hard part begins now,” she says in a statement.

“Talent is an issue in every sector, at every level of the value chain, in every part of the country, and there's no silver-bullet fix at hand.”

– With additional reporting from the Canadian Press