Ottawa-Gatineau unemployment rate steady in November despite tech, public sector growth

ottawa

Ottawa-Gatineau’s unemployment rate held steady in November, Statistics Canada reported Friday, as slight job gains in the all-important public service and tech sectors were offset by losses in other industries.

The total number of workers in the National Capital Region declined slightly last month to 737,500, StatCan said, but a dip in the participation rate kept the unemployment rate at 4.6 per cent, the same level as October.

The public sector added nearly 3,000 positions in November, while the closely watched tech sector also saw a slight rise in employment from 36,900 to 37,400 ​– its first monthly gain since May.

However, job cuts in other sectors counteracted those gains, including losses in professional, scientific and technical services, which fell from 66,000 to 62,900 positions, wholesale and retail trade (89,900 to 87,400) and transportation and warehousing (30,200 to 27,600).

Across the country, a blast of 94,100 new jobs last month has knocked Canada’s overall unemployment rate down to 5.6 per cent ​– its lowest level since StatCan started measuring comparable data more than 40 years ago.

The overall number marked the labour force survey's largest monthly increase since March 2012 when there was a gain of 94,000 jobs, the agency said.

The November employment surge was fuelled by the addition of 89,900 full-time positions. For employee work, the private sector added 78,600 positions in November, while the public sector gained 8,300 jobs.

Last month's increase pushed the jobless rate down from October's reading of 5.8 per cent, which had been the previous low mark since comparable data first became available in 1976. The old statistical approach ​– prior to 1976 ​– registered an unemployment rate reading of 5.4 per cent in 1974.

But Friday's report also contained disappointing details.

Year-over-year average hourly wage growth for permanent employees continued its decline in November to 1.46 per cent ​– to deliver its weakest reading since July 2017.

Experts have been expecting wage growth to rise thanks to the tightened labour market, but it has dropped every month since its May peak of 3.9 per cent. It now sits well below inflation.

The Bank of Canada keeps a close watch on wages ahead of its interest-rate decisions. On Wednesday, the central bank held its benchmark rate at 1.75 per cent, but in explaining its decision it highlighted other economic negatives such as weaker-than-expected business investment and the sharp drop in oil prices.

Royce Mendes of CIBC Economics said the Bank of Canada will take notice of the “massive reading” in the November jobs report as it mulls next month's rate decision.

“The large gain in jobs will keep a January rate hike on the table for now, but we'll need to see similarly positive evidence from other indicators and no major reversal in the next jobs report,” Mendes wrote in a research note to clients Friday.

Statistics Canada's report Friday also said that, compared to 12 months earlier, employment was up 1.2 per cent following a net increase of 218,800 jobs. The addition of 227,400 full-time positions offset a small decrease in part-time work.

The November jobs report showed the goods-producing sector added 26,900 jobs following a notable gain of 14,800 construction positions. The services sector generated 67,200 jobs last month with help from the addition of 26,000 positions in professional, scientific and technical services.

By region, employment rose in six provinces and was led by gains in Quebec and Alberta.

​– With files from the Canadian Press