Ottawa, ON — Following two months of large gains, employment edged up slightly in March 2008 (+15,000), according to the latest Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada. A surge of entrants into the labour market caused the unemployment rate to move up 0.2 percentage points to 6.0%. Canada’s participation rate reached a new record high of 68.0% in March.
Over the past 12 months, employment grew by an estimated 325,000 (+1.9%).
Part-time employment was up in March (+34,000), the largest increase in part time since November 2006. Over the past 12 months, full-time employment has grown at almost twice the pace (+2.1%) of part-time work (+1.1%).
Private sector employees led overall growth in the first quarter of 2008, following a strong year for the public sector in 2007.
Alberta and British Columbia were the only provinces with notable employment gains in March. These provinces also set new records, as British Columbia’s employment rate reached a high of 64.0%, and Alberta’s participation rate hit 74.7%, the highest of any province.
In March, employment gains were posted in transportation and warehousing and natural resources, with losses in information, culture and recreation.
Year-over-year growth in average hourly wages remained high at 4.7% in March, well above the most recent increase of 1.8% in the Consumer Price Index.
There was a decrease in the estimated number of actual hours worked (-0.9%) in March, which can be attributed to a number of factors including inclement weather in Central and Eastern Canada, a larger than usual number of people reporting absence from work due to vacation, as well as a shift from full-time to part-time employment in a number of industries. The estimate of actual hours produces a snapshot of hours worked during the reference week for the survey (March 9 to 15), not the entire month.
TRANSPORTATION AND WAREHOUSING AND NATURAL RESOURCES INCREASED IN MARCH
Employment in the transportation and warehousing industry rose by an estimated 20,000 in March, offset by losses in information, culture and recreation (-24,000). Over the past 12 months, employment in transportation and warehousing has risen 5.1% (+42,000) with gains mostly in Ontario and Quebec.
Employment edged up in natural resources in March (+7,000), after a dip over the previous two months, leaving this industry unchanged from one year ago.
Over the March 2007 to March 2008 period, employment in the goods-producing sector was little changed, as gains in the construction industry were offset by manufacturing losses. At the same time, service sector employment grew by 2.4%, with public administration; professional scientific and technical services; health care and social assistance as well as transportation and warehousing adding the most workers.
PRIVATE SECTOR LEADS QUARTERLY EMPLOYMENT GROWTH
Over the first quarter of 2008, employment growth among private sector employees (+1.2%) was stronger than that of the public sector (+0.3%). The growth among private sector employees was driven by gains in professional, scientific and technical services and construction. Self-employment fell (-1.3%) in the first quarter of 2008.
EMPLOYMENT GAINS IN THE WEST
British Columbia led employment gains in March with an estimated increase of 15,000 (+0.6%), pushing the employment rate to a new record high of 64.0%. Employment gains were widespread across several industries. With higher participation, the province’s unemployment rate edged up 0.2 percentage points to 4.3% in March. Over the last 12 months, employment in British Columbia was up 55,000 (+2.4%), with half of the gains in construction.
In March, Alberta added 10,000 workers (+0.5%), pushing the province’s employment level above the two million mark for the first time. Alberta leads the country’s 12 month employment growth (+3.4%), with strength in both the goods (+2.8%) and the service sector (+3.6%). The March unemployment rate of 3.4% remains the lowest in Canada.
EMPLOYMENT PAUSED IN ONTARIO FOLLOWING A STRONG FEBRUARY
Following a strong February, Ontario’s employment was unchanged in March as gains in part-time employment (+23,000) offset losses in full-time work (-25,000). The province’s unemployment rate edged up 0.3 percentage points to 6.4% in March, the result of a boost in the labour force. Over the past 12 months, employment has risen by 1.8% (+119,000), driven by gains in educational services; public administration and business, building and other support services.
Employment in Quebec was also little changed in March, while the unemployment rate increased by 0.3 percentage points to 7.3%. Over the last 12 months, employment has risen 1.5% (+58,000) in the province, with the largest gains in construction and professional, scientific and technical services industries.
STRONGEST GROWTH AMONG OLDER WORKERS
In March, employment among older workers (55 years and older) increased by 24,000, building on the strong gains of the past year. Older workers have shown the fastest employment increase of all age groups over the past 12 months, with an annual growth rate of 7.8%, well above the 0.9% for core-aged (25 to 54 years) workers.
QUARTERLY UPDATE ON TERRITORIES AND ABORIGINAL PEOPLE LIVING OFF-RESERVE IN THE WESTERN PROVINCES
The Labour Force Survey also collects labour market information about the territories, and Aboriginal people living off-reserve in the four western provinces. This information is not seasonally adjusted and is produced monthly in the form of three-month moving averages. Comparisons should only be made on a year-over-year basis.
The Yukon’s strong labour market pushed the employment rate to 71.1% in the first quarter of 2008, up an estimated 3.6 percentage points over the same period last year.
In contrast, the employment rate in the Northwest Territories fell 4.9 percentage points over the last 12 months to 70.1% for the first quarter of 2008.
In the 10 largest communities of Nunavut, the employment rate stood at 62.7% in the first quarter of 2008, little changed from the same period a year ago.
The employment rate of Aboriginal people living off-reserve in the four western provinces was 61.2% in the first quarter of 2008, up 1.1 percentage points from a year earlier. Over the same period, the employment rate of the non-Aboriginal population edged up 0.4 percentage points to 66.7%.
Between the first quarters of 2007 and 2008, the employment rate of Aboriginal people living off-reserve in Alberta increased 2.0 percentage points to 67.5%. Similarly, in British Columbia, the employment rate was up 2.9 percentage points to 61.0%. While there was little change in Manitoba (58.6%), Saskatchewan’s employment rate among Aboriginal people living off-reserve fell 2.4 percentage points over this period to 54.4%.