Ottawa-Gatineau’s unemployment rate edges up to 4.2% in October

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Ottawa-Gatineau’s unemployment rate ticked up slightly in October as job gains were offset by a rise in the number of people looking for work.

The region’s jobless rate rose to 4.2 per cent, up from 4.1 per cent in September, Statistics Canada said Friday. 

While the region’s economy added 1,000 jobs in October, the labour force – which includes people who are actively seeking work – grew by 2,400 to 833,100. Total employment in Ottawa-Gatineau stood at 797,700 last month.

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Meanwhile, the participation rate – which compares the size of the region’s labour force to the region’s population of working-age residents – rose slightly to 67.1 per cent, up from 67 per cent in September.

Sectors posting gains in the three-month rolling average included educational services (up a net 2,500 jobs), construction (up 2,400), manufacturing (a gain of 1,600) and accommodation and food services (up 1,100). 

Sectors that shed jobs included health care (down a net 2,900 positions), professional, scientific and technical services (down 2,200), public administration (down 2,100) and business, building and other support services (down 1,900).

Nationally, the Canadian economy added 108,000 jobs in October, reversing much of the losses observed in recent months and surprising forecasters who were expecting a very modest bump in employment.

National rate holds steady

In its latest labour force survey, Statistics Canada said the unemployment rate for last month held steady at 5.2 per cent as more Canadians looked for work.

The jobs gain comes after four months of job losses or little growth in employment.

It’s also at odds with bubbling fears that the Canadian economy is headed for a possible recession as interest rates rise.

“This jobs report checked all the boxes in terms of being a blowout report,” TD economist Rishi Sondhi said in a client note.

“The Canadian labour market clearly still has some steam left to it.”

Employment rose across a broad range of sectors in October, led by manufacturing, construction and accommodation and food services.

The October gain in employment comes after three months of job losses in the summer and a modest bump in employment in September.

Desjardins chief economist Jimmy Jean said although the report beat out expectations by a lot, the economy is still expected to slow considerably in response to rising interest rates.

“What we know from history is that when that happens, you see a slowdown in consumer spending, in housing as well,” Jean said. “And that tends to lead to an overall economic slowdown.”

However, Jean said that slowdown doesn’t necessarily have to be severe or long-lasting.

The Bank of Canada has been raising interest rates aggressively this year in response to decades-high inflation and has signalled it plans to raise rates further.

Wages rising

The latest jobs report also showed that for a fifth consecutive month, wages grew on an annual basis. Compared with a year ago, wages in October were up 5.6 per cent.

However, with the annual inflation rate at 6.9 per cent in September, many Canadians have lost purchasing power over the last year.

The report highlights that high-wage earners were more likely to experience a wage increase over the last year compared with lower-wage earners.

Among workers who have been with their employer for the last 12 months, nearly two thirds of workers earning more than $40 an hour got a raise. In comparison, half of workers making less than $20 an hour saw their wages go up.

The employment rate among Canadian immigrants aged 15 and older reached a record high in October at 62.2 per cent.

With inflation this year reaching levels not seen in four decades, the report surveyed Canadians on their financial situations. More than one third of Canadians said they were finding it difficult or very difficult to meet their financial needs. Two years ago, just over one fifth of Canadians reported the same challenges.

Workers in accommodation and food services, retail trade and transportation and warehousing were among the most likely to report financial challenges.

Wages in accommodation and food services as well as retail trade fall below the national average and workers in these industries are more likely to be employed part-time.

– With additional reporting from the Canadian Press

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