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Stronger gains expected in employment, says Conference Board

Ottawa, ON – The Help-Wanted Index, compiled monthly by the Conference Board of Canada, gained 4.3 points in February 2012. It was the third significant gain in the past four months, and it brought the index to 125.7.


Ottawa, ON – The Help-Wanted Index, compiled monthly by the Conference Board of Canada, gained 4.3 points in February 2012. It was the third significant gain in the past four months, and it brought the index to 125.7.

The recent performance suggests that the weak employment gains of recent months should soon give way to stronger gains. Faced with global economic uncertainty, employers have generally reined in their hiring over the past few months, but the improving economic recovery in the US will likely encourage Canadian businesses to start hiring again.

While the labour market tends to vary widely on a month-to-month basis and is therefore difficult to forecast, the overall trend in the index suggests we should see a gain of 13,900 jobs in March.

Only three provincial indexes posted declines in February. Prince Edward Island’s index dropped the most, falling 10.3 points. The drop followed four consecutive monthly gains. New Brunswick and Saskatchewan both saw their indexes fall by 3.7 points in February after posting gains in the three previous months. For Saskatchewan in particular, this represents a very small decline when compared with the strong gains posted recently.

All the other provincial indexes posted gains. Quebec’s index increased by 16.3 points – the biggest gain among all the provinces this month and a positive turnaround following an almost unbroken string of declines going back to last August (the one exception being a gain in December).

Alberta’s index gained 7 points – breaking the record high set the previous month. Ontario’s index climbed a more modest 2.6 points but continued the upward trend it began last November. British Columbia’s index climbed 1.6 points, partially offsetting its January decline. The BC index has remained relatively steady over the past year.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s index also gained 1.6 points in February, following two consecutive monthly declines. Manitoba’s index advanced by 1.4 points – its fourth consecutive gain. Finally, Nova Scotia’s index was up – but only by 0.5 points.

The Conference Board of Canada’s Indicator of Labour Market Tightness suggests that the labour market tightened slightly in February, as the number of unemployed individuals for every job posted online fell from 2.35 to 2.27. This tightening was the result of the combined effect of changes in two variables. Despite job losses in February, the number of unemployed individuals fell due to a contraction of the labour force – a result of a drop in the labour force participation rate. Meanwhile, the number of job postings increased in February. The combination of the two factors led to a tighter labour market.

Overall, seven provincial labour markets tightened in February. Most of the tightening occurred in Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. More moderate tightening took place in Alberta and Saskatchewan, while the British Columbia and Manitoba labour markets loosened.