Swelling federal payroll in Ottawa-Gatineau pushes employment to record high

The federal government’s local hiring binge continued for a second straight month, pushing the number of people working in Ottawa-Gatineau to an all-time high, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

Employers across the region collectively added 1,000 net new employees to their payrolls in November, the statistics agency said. However, an increase in the number of people in the labour force looking for work meant the region’s unemployment rate held steady from October at 6.2 per cent.

Statistics Canada, which uses a three-month rolling average to report local employment data, says there were 723,000 people working in Ottawa-Gatineau last month. The previous high of 722,200 was set in July, according to OBJ files.

The public administration sector, and the federal government in particular, was one of the strongest performing job markets last month.

Including defence services, the federal government hired 4,500 new public administrators in the National Capital Region in November. That follows 4,800 new hires in October and brings the total to 139,200 individuals.

The last time the federal government employed that many public administrators was in December 2012, roughly around the time that the former Conservative government began to trim the size of the federal public service.

Meanwhile, the region’s closely watched high-tech sector shed 1,000 jobs in November, shrinking to 48,900 employees in Ottawa-Gatineau.

While that’s slightly off from recent highs set late this summer, it’s still up by more than 9,000 jobs over a year earlier.

Nationally, the Canadian labour market unexpectedly added 10,700 net jobs last month and the unemployment rate slid to 6.8 per cent, but the latest numbers raise questions about the quality of the work.

Statistics Canada's November employment survey shows yet another monthly decline in the more-desirable category of full-time work, a figure more than offset by a gain in part-time jobs.

The report says the market added 19,400 part-time jobs last month and shed 8,700 full-time positions.

Compared with November 2015, Canada gained 183,200 jobs overall for an increase of 0.1 per cent. But over that period full-time work fell by 30,500 positions, while the part-time category piled up an additional 213,700 jobs.

Last month's data did beat the expectations of a consensus of economists, who had predicted Canada to shed 20,000 positions in November and for the jobless rate to stay at seven per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

The jobs report says the unemployment rate dropped to 6.8 per cent from seven per cent because fewer people were searching for work.

The agency says there were 41,300 additional paid employee jobs last month, while the number of positions in the less-desirable class of self-employed workers – some of which may have been unpaid – fell by 30,700.

Over the 12 months leading up to November, the labour market added 220,100 employee jobs and shed 22,100 self-employed positions.

Last month, the services sector gained 31,200 net new jobs, with the bulk of the increase concentrated in finance, insurance and real estate as well as information, culture and recreation.

The country's goods-producing sector lost 20,600 positions with construction and manufacturing seeing the biggest declines.

Statistics Canada also said the number of private-sector jobs rose by 29,700 jobs last month, while the public sector added 11,600.

Among the provinces, Ontario gained the most jobs last month with 18,900 new positions, an increase of 0.3 per cent compared with October. The province has seen job numbers climb 1.5 per cent over the last year.

Alberta shed 12,800 positions last month, 13,600 of which were full-time jobs. On a year-over-year basis, employment in the hard-hit province fell 1.3 per cent overall, while full-time work slid 3.9 per cent.

British Columbia lost 600 positions last month, but compared to a year earlier it still led all provinces with the fastest growth rate of 2.1 per cent.

Quebec added 8,500 jobs in November and, compared to 12 months earlier, employment there climbed by two per cent.

Nova Scotia saw a month-over-month increase of 0.8 per cent in November by adding 3,700 jobs. The increase, however, was fuelled by part-time work as the province lost 200 full-time positions.

- With reporting by the Canadian Press