MRO Magazine

Job growth in goods-producing sector stumbles in February

Ottawa, ON -- Estimates from Statistics Canada's latest Labour Force Survey show little overall change in the labou...


Human Resources

March 12, 2007
By MRO Magazine
MRO Magazine

Ottawa, ON — Estimates from Statistics Canada’s latest Labour Force Survey show little overall change in the labour market in February 2007, as employment edged up slightly (+14,000). The unemployment rate dipped 0.1 percentage points to 6.1%. Employment has been on an upward trend since August 2006 with average monthly gains of 42,000.

There were an estimated 392,000 more people working in February compared to a year ago, an increase of 2.4%. Most of the gain over the past 12 months has been in full-time employment. However, since October 2006, part-time employment has also picked up strength.

Youths were the only group with a significant increase in February as employment among both adult men and women was little changed.

The service sector continued to generate employment in February, while fewer people worked in the goods sector, the result of employment losses mainly in manufacturing and agriculture.

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Manufacturing employment fell in February following six months of little change. February’s losses were primarily in Quebec.

While employment was little changed in February, a long term trend that continues to hold is robust employment growth in Canada’s three westernmost provinces. Since February 2006, growth in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia has exceeded the national growth rate of 2.4%. This is in contrast to Central Canada where employment gains in both Quebec and Ontario have been more restrained with growth below the national average.

Both British Columbia and New Brunswick hit new record-low unemployment rates in February.

MORE PEOPLE WORKING IN SERVICES

In February, employment in the service sector rose by an estimated 49,000. This sector continued to drive employment growth in Central and Eastern Canada over the past 12 months, while growth in the goods sector spurred gains in the West.

Service-sector gains in February were in finance, insurance, real estate and leasing (+18,000) with the largest increases in Quebec and Ontario. Compared to February of last year, employment in this industry is up 4.8%.

The strong upward trend in health care and social assistance observed over the past 12 months continued in February (+16,000). This brings total gains from a year ago to 110,000 (+6.3%), with growth spread across most provinces.

The number of people working in transportation and warehousing also rose in February, up 17,000, mainly in Ontario and British Columbia.

LOSSES IN THE GOODS-PRODUCING SECTOR

While there was added employment in services, the goods-producing sector stumbled in February, mainly due to declines in manufacturing and agriculture.

There were manufacturing declines in Quebec (-33,000) and Alberta (-6,000) in February. The recent strike by Canadian National Railway workers may have led some manufacturers and support industries to scale back production. Despite February’s decline, factory employment increased by an estimated 25,000 in Alberta from a year ago. Over the same period, manufacturing employment also increased by 10,000 in Manitoba. More recently, British Columbia has also added employment in manufacturing, with gains since last September totalling 15,000.

Agriculture also lost ground in February with an estimated 16,000 fewer people reporting this industry as their main source of employment.

While overall employment growth in the goods sector has been dampened by declines in manufacturing, there has been added employment in both natural resources (+11.5%) and construction (+4.0%) over the past 12 months. This is mostly due to strength in Alberta and British Columbia.

ATLANTIC CANADA GAINS WHILE THE WEST HOLDS ITS GROUND

In February, employment in Newfoundland and Labrador rose by an estimated 2,500, pushing the unemployment rate down 1.1 percentage points to 14.3%. Gains earlier in 2006 more than offset declines later in the year, leaving employment 9,000 above the level observed at the start of 2006.

Employment also rose by 2,500 in New Brunswick, bringing gains since last September, when the current upward trend began in the province, to 10,000. The increase over this period has been predominantly in the goods-producing sector. There have also been increases in health care and social assistance. The combined effect of more employment in February along with fewer people in the labour force pushed the unemployment rate down 1.2 percentage points to 6.9%, setting a 31-year low. The proportion of the population aged 15 and over who were employed rose by 0.4 percentage points to 58.8% in February, matching the record high set last year.

Despite little employment change in February, the trend in Canada’s three westernmost provinces has been strong. Since February 2006, employment growth in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia has been well above the national growth rate of 2.4% and their respective unemployment rates remain the lowest in Canada. While most of the employment growth in the West has been in the goods sector, Saskatchewan’s gains were predominantly in the service sector.

In Alberta, the continued abundance of employment opportunities has resulted in a new record high employment rate in February (71.6%). Similarly, British Columbia’s employment rate maintained its record high (63.5%), while the unemployment rate hit a new record low of 4.0% in February.

Overall employment remained little changed in Quebec in February as gains in construction; finance, insurance, real estate and leasing; as well as business, building and other support services were offset by large losses in manufacturing. Over the past 12 months, there have been decreases in paper, primary metal and non-metallic mineral products, plastic and rubber products, as well as in clothing manufacturing. Compared to a year ago, overall employment in the province is up 1.3% (+50,000). The unemployment rate was little changed in February at 7.8%.

Similar to Quebec, the trend in Ontario over the past 12 months is also one of slower growth than the national average with employment in the province up only 1.9% (+125,000). Growth over the past year has been stronger in part-time than in full-time employment. Although the number of factory workers held steady in February, compared to 12 months ago, employment in manufacturing is down 5.1% with the largest losses in motor vehicles and parts, primary metal and fabricated metal products manufacturing.

MORE YOUTHS WORKING IN FEBRUARY

There were an estimated 21,000 more youths employed in February, bringing total gains over the past year to 48,000 (+1.9%). Although most of the increases over this 12-month period have been in full time, more recent gains have also occurred in part time. With more youths working in February, their unemployment rate continued to trend down, falling by 0.7 percentage points to 11.0%, the lowest since 1990.

Among adults, it is women who have experienced the most employment growth over the past 12 months, up 3.5% or 223,000, while employment among men has increased by only 1.6% (+122,000). The unemployment rate for adult women remained at its record-low 4.9% in February, lower than the rate among adult men (5.3%).