Ottawa-Gatineau's unemployment rate ticks up to 9.2% in August

Ottawa downtown
Paul McKinnon/iStock photo

Despite gaining nearly 10,000 jobs in August, the National Capital Region saw its unemployment rate edge up as residents returned en masse to the job market, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Ottawa-Gatineau’s jobless rate rose to 9.2 per cent last month, up from 9.1 per cent in July, as a spate of new hirings was offset by more than 11,000 job-hunters re-entering the market to look for work.

Statistics Canada uses a three-month rolling average to calculate the region’s unemployment rate, meaning the latest figures still reflect a period in which some businesses were shuttered and local residents were asked to stay home to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

On the plus side, many local sectors made strong gains in August, reflecting the gradual reopening of the economy from the COVID-19 lockdown.

While the region’s largest employer, the public administration sector, added just 600 new jobs and the tech sector actually shed about 500 positions, other local industries more than made up for that sluggish performance.

The health-care sector continued to add jobs at a brisk pace, growing its workforce by 5,700 people. Buoyed by restaurant and bar reopenings, the accommodation and food services sector added 5,200 jobs, while the retail sector also started to pick up steam as shops welcomed customers back, expanding by 2,700 positions.

Nationally, StatsCan says the economy added 246,000 in August as the pace of job gains slowed compared with July, when 419,000 jobs were added.

The figure marked the fourth consecutive month of gains from COVID-19-related lockdowns this spring, bringing the number to within 1.1 million of pre-pandemic levels.

Gains in August were largely concentrated in full-time work, which had been lagging behind gains in part-time employment.

Full-time work rose by 206,000 while the number of part-time workers rose by 40,000. Full-time employment is now almost six per cent away from pre-pandemic levels compared to the 3.9 per cent shortfall in part-time work.

Employment also rose at a faster pace for women than men for the third straight month as Statistics Canada reported women gained about 150,000 positions in August compared with 96,000 for men.

As well, the number of Canadians working less than half their usual hours ​– likely due to COVID-19 ​– fell by 14.6 per cent. That leaves some 713,000 workers still working fewer hours, down from the 2.5 million peak in April.

More workers returning to the office

More Canadians headed into work instead of their home office, Statistics Canada says, noting that 300,000 fewer people worked from home while those working in other locations rose by almost 400,000.

The unemployment rate fell to 10.2 per cent in August compared with 10.9 per cent in July.

Economists were expecting a slightly higher gain of 275,000 jobs in August and an unemployment rate of 10.1 per cent, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate in August would have been 13 per cent had it included in calculations people who wanted a job, but didn't look for work.

The unemployment rate was higher for racialized workers than non-racialized workers.

Statistics Canada says the rate, not seasonally adjusted, for Arab workers was 17.9 per cent, followed by 17.6 per cent for Black workers, and then 16.6 per cent for those who identify as Southeast Asian.

The agency also says that employment among Indigenous people living off-reserve fell by 1.8 per cent from July, compared with gains of 1.3 per cent for non-Indigenous Canadians.

That left Indigenous people with an employment rate at 91.4 per cent of February levels, compared to 96.7 per cent for non-Indigenous Canadians, Statistics Canada says.

– With files from the Canadian Press