Part-time work helps push Canada's unemployment rate down; province, city don’t fare as well

By Tyler Marr
August 10, 2018 - 12:00pm

Despite a surge in part-time employment across the nation offsetting full-time declines and pushing down Canada’s unemployment rate, the numbers paint a less-than-rosy picture in Saskatchewan and Prince Albert.

According to Statistics Canada’s monthly labour force survey, employment rose by 54,000 across the nation last month, driving the jobless rate down 0.2 points and back to its four-decade low of 5.8 per cent. Though the numbers appear pleasant on the surface, some economists warn they should be taken with a grain of salt when diving deeper into the details.

First is the fact the gains came on the back of 82,000 less desirable part-time positions while the country shed 28,000 full-time jobs. Secondly, they point out how the public sector accounted for a large chunk of the increase at 49,600, while the private sector only tallied up 5,200. The national statistics agency also reported cooling average hourly wage growth, an aspect closely monitored by the Bank of Canada, sliding to 3.2 per cent year-over-year in July from 3.6 per cent last month and 3.9 per cent in May.

“Today’s job report is a classic case of ‘nice headlines, shame about the details,’” Bank of Montreal Chief Economist Douglas Porter wrote in a note Friday. “While we would still give the overall result a passing grade, it’s tough to get over enthusiastic.”

Porter, however, maintained the national labour market remains robust and wrote there is “easily enough here” to convince the Bank of Canada to keep on track in gradually tightening its key interest rate. 

Ontario, B.C., and Newfoundland and Labrador all recorded employment increases, with declines or little change elsewhere. Saskatchewan shed 4,200 jobs, hoisting the unemployment rate to 6.6 per cent, up 0.3 points. This keeps the province at the fifth-best employment picture in Canada, behind Manitoba at 6 per cent, Quebec at 5.6, Ontario at 5.4 and British Columbia at 5 per cent. 

In Saskatoon, the jobless rate rose marginally to 7.1 from 7.0 per cent, while the Queen City held steady at 6.5.

Here at home, Prince Albert’s unemployment rate took a steep climb, surging to its highest point in months and reaching 11.2 per cent. The city started the year at 8.4 and has seen peaks and troughs throughout, touching a low of 6.7 per cent in March.

Year-over-year, the employment picture was mixed. In July of 2017, the unemployment rate was 10.5 per cent, though the participation rate was just 64.2 per cent, a number that is now at 65.5, pushing the labour force to 22,400 from 21,900 this time last year. These numbers have likewise fluctuated drastically month-to-month.


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