Ottawa-Gatineau unemployment rate plummets to 4.8% amid record job gains in July

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A surge in summer hiring pushed Ottawa-Gatineau’s unemployment rate to an eight-month low, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

Employers on both sides of the Ottawa River collectively added a whopping 12,300 jobs in July – the largest single-month gain in at least eight years. That pushed the unemployment rate to 4.8 per cent, down from 5.4 per cent in June.

It’s the first time in 2019 that the region’s unemployment rate has fallen below five per cent and is also the largest monthly drop since at least 2010.

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July’s job numbers are even more remarkable because the size of the region’s largest employer – the federal government – was flat.

In Ottawa, the largest gains were recorded in the health care and social assistance sector, which added 6,900 positions, as well as transportation and warehousing, which grew by 3,000 positions.

While the number of warehousing and transportation jobs have fluctuated in recent months, e-commerce giant Amazon said it was hiring more than 600 full-time positions for its new Ottawa fulfilment centre, which opened June 23.

Nationally, wage growth in Canada accelerated last month to its highest level in more than a decade, according to Statistics Canada.

The 4.5 per cent burst in wages came in a month that also produced less-positive data: the unemployment rate moved up to 5.7 per cent as Canada shed 24,200 jobs.

The increase in wages – as measured by year-over-year average hourly wage growth for all employees – marked the indicator’s strongest month since January 2009.

The reading, one of several wage measures closely watched by the Bank of Canada, was 3.8 per cent in June and 2.8 per cent in May.

Quebec saw the healthiest wage growth of nearly 6.2 per cent, while Ontario’s number was 5.1 per cent.

In terms of job creation, the economy saw its weakest three-month stretch since early 2018.

The survey found the numbers were nearly flat between May and July, a period that saw Canada add an average of 400 jobs per month. The agency cautions, however, that the recent monthly readings have been small enough that they’re within the margin of error and, therefore, statistically insignificant.

The economy had been on a healthy run of monthly employment gains that began last summer. Even with the July decline, compared to a year earlier, the numbers show Canada added a healthy dose of 353,000 new positions – almost all of which were full time.

The July unemployment rate edged up to 5.7 per cent from 5.5 per cent in June and 5.4 per cent in May, which was its lowest mark since 1976.

A closer look at the numbers shows the economy lost 69,300 private-sector employee positions last month, while the public sector gained 17,500 jobs.

Alberta, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick posted notable declines in employment last month – and jobless rates moved higher in each of the provinces.

Quebec and Prince Edward Island added jobs last month, the report said.

Youth employment fell by about 19,000 positions, pushing the jobless rate up 0.7 percentage points to 11.4 per cent.

The number of positions for core-aged women – between 25 and 54 years old – dropped by about 18,000.

– With reporting by the Canadian Press

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