Ottawa-Gatineau’s unemployment rate holds steady at 4.5% in December: Statistics Canada

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Ottawa-Gatineau’s jobless rate held steady at 4.5 per cent in December as total employment remained virtually unchanged from the previous month, according to Statistics Canada.

The region’s economy added about 100 jobs last month, the federal agency said Friday. Meanwhile, the labour force – which includes people who are actively looking for work – grew by about 800 people after months of significant gains. 

The participation rate – a key indicator that compares the size of the region’s labour force to the region’s population of working-age residents – remained unchanged from November at 67.5 per cent.

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Most economic sectors showed only slight variations in their three-month rolling employment averages last month. 

The region’s largest employer, the public service, took the largest dip, shedding a net total of 5,200 positions. The technology sector, the region’s second-largest employer, added about 500 jobs, while the retail sector made the biggest rise in the runup to the holiday season, gaining 6,300 jobs. 

Across the country, the Canadian economy added 104,000 jobs in December as the unemployment rate fell slightly to five per cent, Statistics Canada said.

This marks the third decline in the unemployment rate in fourth months, edging it closer to the record-low of 4.9 per cent reached in June and July.

“You always have to be a little bit careful about reading too much into any single Canadian employment report,” said Douglas Porter, BMO’s chief economist.

“But this is the second time in three months that the economy has cranked out 100,000 new jobs, which is a big number historically.”

In its latest labour force survey, the federal agency said the rise in employment was driven by an increase in full-time work.

The number of employees in the private sector also increased last month, with job gains made across industries.

Meanwhile, employment in the public sector held steady.

Wages continued to grow at a year-over-year pace above five per cent for the seventh consecutive month, with wages up 5.1 per cent.

However, wage growth still lags the country’s inflation rate, which was 6.8 per cent in November.

Employment among youth aged 15 to 24 rose in December, fully recouping job losses experienced between July and September.

The jobs report also noted that the employment rate among women between the ages of 25 and 54 reached a record high last month.

The Bank of Canada has previously flagged the country’s tight labour market as a contributor to high inflation.

The central bank has raised interest rates aggressively in hopes of bringing down the pace of price growth and cooling the economy.

While economists expect unemployment to rise in response to higher borrowing costs, the labour market has remained resilient over recent months.

The Bank of Canada signalled last month a willingness to press pause on its aggressive rate hike cycle, depending on how the economy evolves.

Though BMO still expects there to be another rate hike at the end of the month, Porter said the latest jobs report doesn’t close the debate.

“But I would say at the very least, this strengthens the case for at least one more rate hike in January.”

– With additional reporting from the Canadian Press

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