MRO Magazine

Unemployment reaches highest rate in seven years

Ottawa, ON -- The latest Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada shows employment declined by 61,000 in March 20...

Human Resources

April 13, 2009
By MRO Magazine

Ottawa, ON — The latest Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada shows employment declined by 61,000 in March 2009, all in full-time work. This decrease pushed the unemployment rate up 0.3 percentage points to 8.0%, the highest rate in seven years.


Since peaking in October 2008, employment has fallen each month, with net losses totalling 357,000 (-2.1%). In percentage terms, this is the largest decline over a five-month period since the 1982 recession.



Since October, full-time employment has declined by 2.8% (-387,000) while part-time has edged up 0.9% (+30,000).


Losses in March were widespread across a number of industries, most notably in manufacturing; finance, insurance, real estate and leasing; construction; and natural resources. These losses were only partially offset by gains in “other services”, and business, building and other support services.


Employment fell in several provinces in March, with the largest declines in British Columbia (-23,000), Alberta (-15,000) and Ontario (-11,000). Since October, these three provinces also had the fastest rate of employment decreases.


March’s employment losses were spread among core-aged men (25 to 54), youths (15 to 24), and women 55 and over. Since the start of the downturn in October, employment has fallen by 3.1% for core-aged men, the largest five-month loss in 33 years.


In March, the increase in average hourly wages was 4.3% compared with 12 months earlier.


Manufacturing continues to lose ground


Employment declines were concentrated in the goods-producing sector in March, with large losses in manufacturing, construction and natural resources.


Employment in manufacturing fell by 34,000 in March. Of the major industry groups, manufacturing has lost the most workers since October (-134,000, or -6.8%). These losses were concentrated in the manufacturing of fabricated and primary metal; motor vehicle, body, and parts; and wood products.


Construction employment also declined in March, down 18,000, the third notable decrease in four months. In percentage terms, this industry had the fastest employment growth from January to October 2008, and has since experienced the steepest decline. Employment in this industry has decreased by 99,000 (-7.9%) since October 2008, led by losses in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. These provinces also had the largest drops in both housing starts and building permits in the most recent year-over-year estimates.


For the second month in a row, employment in natural resources declined, down 11,000 in March. This was led by losses in Alberta, mostly in mining, oil and gas extraction.


In the services sector, employment in finance, insurance, real estate and leasing fell by 20,000 in March. Another service industry posting a drop was accommodation and food services (-15,000). These declines were offset by increases in “other services” (+23,000) and business, building and other support services (+13,000) in March.


In March, all of the employment losses were among private sector employees (-68,000). Since October, employment among private (-2.5%) and public sector employees (-2.3%) has contracted, while self-employment has changed little (-0.1%).


Employment down in several provinces


British Columbia’s employment fell by 23,000 in March. This brings total employment losses to 69,000 (-3.0%) since October 2008, largely driven by decreases in construction and manufacturing. Over the same period, British Columbia has seen its unemployment rate climb 2.2 percentage points to 7.4% in March.


Following a large decline in February, employment in Alberta fell a further 15,000 in March, pushing the unemployment rate up to 5.8%. Since October, employment losses have totalled 48,000 (-2.4%), mainly in the goods-producing sector.


Manitoba’s employment also fell in March (-4,000), bringing the unemployment rate up 0.3 percentage points to 5.1%.


In March, employment in Saskatchewan declined by 3,000. Despite the loss in March, employment in this province is unchanged compared with October 2008. The unemployment rate, at 4.7% in March, has increased by 0.8 percentage points since October.


Despite increases in their unemployment rates, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta continue to have the lowest unemployment rates in the country.


Employment in Ontario edged down by 11,000 in March. Since October, declines have totalled 171,000 (-2.5%), mostly in full-time work. Although the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 8.7% in March, it has risen 2.0 percentage points since October, an increase similar to that of British Columbia and Alberta.


In Quebec, although employment was little changed in March, the unemployment rate increased 0.4 percentage points to 8.3%, as more people entered the labour market. Employment has decreased by 55,000 (-1.4%) since October, and the unemployment rate has increased by 1.1 percentage points.


The only other province with a notable employment decline in March was Nova Scotia, down 3,000.


Losses persist among men aged 25 to 54 and youths


In March, employment fell by 26,000 among men aged 25 to 54, while their unemployment rate increased 0.4 percentage points, to 7.7%. Since the start of the downturn in October, the unemployment rate for this group has increased by 2.2 percentage points, while employment has declined by 197,000, the largest five-month loss in 33 years. In contrast, there have been fewer employment losses (-39,000) among women aged 25 to 54 years since October, and their unemployment rate has increased by 1.0 percentage point, to 5.7%.


Young people aged 15 to 24 years also experienced employment losses in March (-19,000). This pushed their unemployment rate up to 14.8%, the highest in 11 years. Since October, employment for this age group has declined by 122,000 and their unemployment rate has increased by 2.6 percentage points.


Following an increase in February, employment fell by 13,000 for women aged 55 and over in March. This has been the only demographic group posting an employment increase (+9,000) since the slowdown began in October 2008.


The next release of the Labour Force Survey will be on May 8.