Ottawa's unemployment rate drops to 4.2% in October

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The unemployment rate in Ottawa-Gatineau hit its lowest point in at least 18 years in October on the strength of robust gains in the construction, education and food services sectors.

Employers in the region added 9,700 jobs to their payrolls last month, Statistics Canada said Friday, boosting the overall number of workers to just under 800,000. Meanwhile, the overall size of the labour force, which includes people looking for work, grew by about 8,900 to nearly 835,000. 

The region’s unemployment rate dropped from 4.4 per cent in September to 4.2 per cent last month, StatCan said. That’s its lowest level since at least early 2001, according to data from the agency.

The construction sector registered the biggest gains in October, adding 4,400 new jobs. Other sectors that posted significant growth were educational services, which gained 2,500 new positions, and hotels and food services (up 2,200).

Those gains helped offset a slight decline in the region’s vibrant technology sector, which shed about 800 jobs in October and employed a total of 48,400 people. That represents the lowest headcount in the sector since June and the first month-over-month decline in tech since October 2018.

Meanwhile, the region’s largest employer, the public administration sector, stayed the course in October. There were 174,300 workers employed in the public sector last month, down slightly from 174,500 in September. 

Nationally, the number of people working in Canada edged lower in October following two months of big gains as the manufacturing and construction sectors lost jobs.

Statistics Canada said the economy lost 1,800 jobs in October, following gains of 54,000 jobs in September and 81,000 in August.

The number of full-time jobs fell by 16,100, offset in part by a gain of 14,300 part-time jobs, while the unemployment rate held steady at 5.5 per cent.

Economists on average expected the economy to add a total of 15,900 jobs and an unemployment rate of 5.5 per cent, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Scotiabank deputy chief economist Brett House said the October jobs numbers were the weakest since July, but added that one soft month won't have much impact on the Bank of Canada's stance, particularly after the strong gains in the two months that preceded it.

“On details, the mix of full-time and part-time jobs changes was poor,” House said.

“But we continued to see strong wage gains, at over twice headline inflation, which reflects the fact that Canadian businesses continue to cite labour shortages as the most important constraint on their growth.”

Despite the small decline in the number of jobs, wage growth in October held steady. Average hourly wage growth, year-over-year, for all employees was 4.3 per cent for the month, the same as September.

The manufacturing sector lost 23,000 jobs, mostly in Ontario, while the construction sector lost 21,000. Employment in the “other services” industry also fell by 18,000.

The losses were offset in part by an increase of 20,000 jobs working in public administration and 18,000 in finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing.

The jobs report comes after the Bank of Canada's decision late last month to keep its key interest rate on hold at 1.75 per cent.

In making its decision, the central bank said inflation was on target and the domestic economy has held up well in many respects, even though it's feeling the negative effects of slowing global growth.

Josh Nye, senior economist at Royal Bank, said the future direction of the Bank of Canada will depend on the resilience of the Canadian economy, particularly in consumer spending and housing.

“A healthy labour market is key to both, and there is little sign of deterioration in today's report with the unemployment rate remaining low and wage growth continuing at a strong pace,” Nye said.

Regionally, B.C. added 15,000 jobs, while Newfoundland and Labrador added 2,700 jobs.

The number of self-employed workers in October fell by 27,800, while public sector employees rose by 28,700. The number of private sector employees fell by 2,700.

On a year-over-year basis, employment was up by 443,000, an increase of 2.4 per cent.

​– With files from the Canadian Press