Part-time work fuels Canadian job growth

The Canadian labour market topped expectations by adding another 10,700 jobs last month.

OTTAWA — The Canadian labour market topped expectations by adding another 10,700 jobs last month and dropping the unemployment rate to 6.8 per cent — but the latest numbers raise questions about the quality of the work.

Statistics Canada’s November employment survey showed yet another monthly decline in full-time work — a figure more than offset by a gain in part-time jobs. The report Friday said the market added 19,400 part-time jobs last month and shed 8,700 full-time positions.

Compared with November 2015, Canada gained 183,200 jobs overall for an increase of 0.1 per cent — but over that period full-time work fell by 30,500 positions, while the part-time category piled up an additional 213,700 jobs.

The result did beat the expectations of economists, who had predicted Canada to shed 20,000 positions in November and for the jobless rate to stay at seven per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

It was the fourth consecutive month the Canadian workforce saw a net increase in jobs, following gains of 44,000 in October, 67,200 in September and 26,200 in August.

“This was supposed to be a bad report — we had three very strong reports and the expectation was that we would see some give back,” said Frances Donald, senior economist for Manulife Asset Management.

“So, the fact that we saw even modest gains is very positive for the Canadian story.”

Donald noted that some of the underlying data was also positive, such as private-sector employment and people on payroll.

The report found that Canada added 41,300 paid employee jobs last month, while the number of self-employed workers — some of which may have been unpaid — fell by 30,700.

Over the 12 months leading up to November, the labour market added 220,100 employee jobs and shed 22,100 self-employed positions.

Statistics Canada also said the number of private-sector jobs rose by 29,700 jobs last month, while the public sector added 11,600.

With the continued rise in part-time positions — and slide in full-time work — Donald said overall hours worked have been in a steady decline. The November report showed an improvement in the number of hours worked compared to prior months, she added.

“This is one of the indicators that we use to suggest that Canada is in a muddle-through type of environment — slow and steady growth,” Donald said.

“That said, a part-time job is better than no job, so I wouldn’t dismiss part-time job growth entirely.”

The job growth helped push the national unemployment rate down to 6.8 per cent from seven per cent, a move also propelled by data that showed fewer people were searching for work last month.

Many economists said the better-than-expected survey will help encourage Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz to hold off on touching the benchmark interest rate any time soon.

“Overall, given that this decent headline gain followed a string of robust advances, we would characterize this as a healthy reading,” BMO chief economist Douglas Porter wrote in a research note to clients.

The report also showed that the services sector gained 31,200 net new jobs last month, with the bulk of the increase concentrated in finance, insurance and real estate as well as information, culture and recreation.

The country’s goods-producing sector lost 20,600 positions with construction and manufacturing seeing the biggest declines.

Among the provinces, Ontario gained the most jobs last month with 18,900 new positions, an increase of 0.3 per cent compared with October. The province has seen job numbers climb 1.5 per cent over the last year.

Alberta shed 12,800 positions last month — 13,600 of which were full-time jobs. On a year-over-year basis, employment in the hard-hit province fell 1.3 per cent overall, while full-time work slid 3.9 per cent.

British Columbia lost 600 positions last month, but compared to a year earlier it still led all provinces with the fastest growth rate of 2.1 per cent.

Quebec added 8,500 jobs in November and, compared to 12 months earlier, employment there climbed by two per cent.

Nova Scotia saw a month-over-month increase of 0.8 per cent in November by adding 3,700 jobs. The increase, however, was fuelled by part-time work as the province lost 200 full-time positions.

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