Capital region labour force hits 200,000

Capital region labour force hits 200,000

 

Source: Times Colonist

Author: Andrew Duffy

 

Greater Victoria’s labour force swelled to more than 200,000 in January, and that surge coincided with the region’s unemployment rate rising slightly to 3.9 per cent, second-lowest in the country.

According to Statistics Canada’s monthly labour force survey, there were 5,000 more people working in the region in January; there were 192,700 people employed last month compared with 187,700 versus the same period last year.

At the same time, the labour pool rose to 200,600 people last month compared with 196,800 in January 2017.

Despite rising from 3.5 per cent in December, Victoria has the country’s second-lowest unemployment rate behind Quebec City, which reported unemployment at 3.3 per cent.

Victoria’s finance, insurance and real estate sector saw the biggest gain in employment over the past year with 7,500 new positions. At the same time, the health-care and social services sector added 4,300 new jobs and accommodation and foodservices added 4,100 new jobs.

The business building and other services sector reported a loss of 4,900 jobs in the last year.

The Canadian labour market hit a speed bump last month with its largest one-month job drop in nine years. The economy lost 88,000 positions — all of them part time — in January for its biggest employment decline in a single month since 2009, Statistics Canada said.

The dip helped to push the national unemployment rate up to 5.9 per cent, from a revised 5.8 per cent the previous month.

The decrease was driven by the loss of 137,000 part-time positions, including more than 59,000 in Ontario. It was the biggest one-month collapse in part-time work since the agency started gathering the data in 1976.

For Ontario, some experts raised the possibility of a link between the provincial drop and the introduction last month of a controversial minimum-wage hike.

To partially offset the declines, Statistics Canada said the economy added 49,000 full-time positions last month. The survey also detected stronger wage growth in January of 3.3 per cent, which also led some to point out possible connections to Ontario.

However, several experts made sure to note that before trying to draw conclusions from the January report, one should consider the well-known month-to-month volatility in the jobs figures.

“The Canadian economy experienced a very large setback in January, but it also needs to be kept in perspective — we had outstandingly strong job growth over the course of last year,” Craig Alexander, chief economist for the Conference Board of Canada, said in an interview.

“Quite frankly, we were overdue for a bad number.”

Despite Canada’s healthy economic performance last year, Alexander said the surprising pace of job creation had been stronger than the other data. He said the losses reported Friday brought the monthly jobs average more in line with the other economic numbers.

“I don’t think that the January number is the start of a whole series of declines — I think it’s more of a reflection of the fact that we were tracking abnormally strong numbers behind us,” Alexander said.

When it comes to the Bank of Canada’s possible reaction to the January report, Alexander noted the “bad number” could delay the timing of governor Stephen Poloz’s next rate hike. Poloz has repeatedly said future rate decisions will be highly data-dependent. Others didn’t expect the January report, on its own, to have a significant impact on the outcome of the next rate announcement.

aduffy@timescolonist.com