MRO Magazine

Unemployment rate reaches 7.7% despite uptick in manufacturing

Ottawa, ON -- According to the February 2009 Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada, employment fell for the fo...

Human Resources

March 13, 2009
By MRO Magazine


Ottawa, ON — According to the February 2009 Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada, employment fell for the fourth consecutive month in February (-83,000), bringing total losses since the peak of last October to 295,000 (-1.7%). The February employment decrease pushed the unemployment rate up 0.5 percentage points to 7.7%.


All of the employment losses in February were in full-time (-111,000), while part-time employment edged up slightly. This continues the downward trend in full-time employment observed since October. Part-time employment has shown only a marginal increase over the same period.



In February, the largest decline in employment occurred in Ontario (-35,000), followed by Alberta (-24,000) and Quebec (-18,000).


Men aged 25 to 54 were particularly hard hit by February’s employment decline (-66,000). Since the start of the labour market downturn, employment among core-age men has fallen by 170,000 (-2.7%).


Employment among 15 to 24 year-olds also continued to trend down in February (-29,000). This latest decline brings total losses since October to 104,000 (-4.0%), the fastest rate of decline of all age groups. The unemployment rate for youths was 14.2% in February, up 2.0 percentage points from last October.


A decrease of 43,000 in construction accounted for over half of the employment decline in February. There were also losses in professional, scientific and technical services; educational services; and natural resources. The only industries with gains in February were manufacturing and agriculture.


In February, the increase in average hourly wages was 3.9% compared with 12 months earlier. The most recent year-over-year increase in the Consumer Price Index was 1.1%.


Sharp decline in construction employment


In February, employment decreased by 43,000 in construction, the second large decline in three months. While the construction industry had the fastest growth from January to October 2008 (+4.9%), it has since experienced the steepest decline (-6.4%). The downward trend coincides with the recent weakness in building permits and housing starts.


Employment in February fell in professional, scientific and technical services, down 31,000 (-2.6%), mostly in legal services and in architecture, engineering and design services.


In February, employment edged down in educational services (-15,000) bringing declines since October to 44,000.


Employment in natural resources also declined in February (-8,000), all in mining, oil and gas extraction, with most of the decrease observed in Alberta.


Manufacturing employment rises


In February, employment rose by 25,000 in manufacturing, with the largest gain in food products manufacturing. Transportation equipment manufacturing was little changed following declines the month before. Despite the overall increase in February, manufacturing employment is down 5.3% (-104,000) from 12 months earlier.


The number of workers employed in agriculture as their main job increased in February. However, over the last 12 months, employment in this industry is down 13,000 (-3.7%).


Employment losses in February were almost equally split among private sector employees, public sector employees and the self-employed.


Continued losses in Ontario


Employment in Ontario fell by 35,000 in February, mostly in construction and finance, insurance, real estate and leasing. This pushed the unemployment rate up 0.7 percentage points to 8.7%, the highest since April 1997. Since last October, the province’s unemployment rate has risen by 2.0 percentage points, with increases concentrated in southwestern Ontario.


Since last October, just over half of the country’s total employment losses have occurred in Ontario, well beyond the province’s 39% share of the total working-age population. Employment in the province fell by 160,000 during this period, with the largest decreases in manufacturing; business, building and other support services; and construction.


In Quebec, employment declined by 18,000 in February, while the unemployment rate edged up 0.2 percentage points to 7.9%. The unemployment rate in Quebec has risen by 0.7 percentage points since last October.


Employment fell by 24,000 in Alberta in February, the second notable decline in three months. February’s drop in employment pushed the unemployment rate for the province up by a full percentage point to 5.4%, the highest in almost six years. Since last October, losses have been mostly in construction and manufacturing.


The only other province with a notable employment decline in February was New Brunswick, down 2,900.


Employment down for men aged 25 to 54 and youths


In February, employment fell by 66,000 among core-aged men (25 to 54) while it was unchanged for women of the same age group. Since October, employment among core-aged men has fallen by 170,000 (-2.7%) while it has edged down 37,000 (-0.7%) among core-aged women.


With employment losses heavily concentrated among men aged 25 to 54 in recent months, their unemployment rate increased from 5.5% last October to 7.3% in February. For core-aged women, the rate rose from 4.7% to 5.5% over the same period.


Employment among youths aged 15 to 24 continued to trend down in February (-29,000), pushing their unemployment rate up 1.5 percentage points to 14.2%, the highest since December 2001. The employment decline in February brings total losses since October to 104,000 (-4.0%), the fastest rate of decline among all age groups.


Among workers aged 55 and over, employment in February increased by 17,000 for women, while it was little changed for men. Since October, employment increased by 1.9% among older women while it edged down among older men.