Help-wanted index in the black

OTTAWA — A few new forward looking indicators are offering a glimmer of hope —amid a generally bleak backdrop — for the economy and job prospects in the coming months.

OTTAWA — A few new forward looking indicators are offering a glimmer of hope —amid a generally bleak backdrop — for the economy and job prospects in the coming months.

The Conference Board of Canada said Wednesday its help-wanted index returned to positive territory in December after a couple of months of negative readings, with 14 of 26 metropolitan areas showing a rise in job prospects.

As well, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business reported its latest survey of firms found confidence climbed to 65, almost a point and a half above the November finding and close to what would be considered normal for an expanding economy.

Most economists predict Canadian growth this year of less than two per cent, which is too feeble to help many of the 1.5 million unemployed Canadians find jobs.

So far, most of the encouraging economic news has come from south of the border, where the United States economy continues to outperform expectations.

Many experts now expect the U.S. economy will post a higher rate of growth than Canada in 2012 for the first time in five years. That would remove one of the key risk factors identified by the Bank of Canada for the Canadian economy, which is heavily invested in the U.S. consumer market.

Europe, however, remains a large and threatening storm cloud feared by policy-makers and markets.

In recent weeks, the U.S. posted positive results in manufacturing, retail sales, consumer confidence, employment and even housing, which is at last showing signs of being on the mend.

“Think back four and five months for reference and the talk was of a recession in the U.S.,” said Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist with the Bank of Montreal.

“Now there is a feeling there’s a little bit of a virtuous circle happening in the U.S.”

None of the new data and confidence indicators are sending economists back to the drawing board and recasting projections of at best slow, laborious expansion in 2012 and 2013, with minimal jobs growth.

The consensus for Friday’s employment report from Statistics Canada is that the year will end with a middling 20,000 jobs gain, and that the unemployment rate will remain fixed at 7.4 per cent.

Even that is a rosy view to some. Scotiabank’s Derek Holt said many economists are likely assuming that since 73,000 jobs were lost during the previous two months, a little make-up is in order.

Holt believes that the opposite is likely the case, however. Canada’s labour market is now paying back for a insupportable creation of about 200,000 new jobs in the first six months of 2011.

Employment went south in the second half of the year. In fact, if Friday’s number shows no employment gain, as Holt expects, the last six months of the year would have seen an overall loss of 20,000 jobs, the first extended period of flat or declining employment since the recession.

Analysts expect this year’s jobs record will mimic last year, with the proviso that most of the gains will come in the second half of the year, when the economy is projected to be stronger if European leaders put in place the measures needed to stabilize their debt crisis.

In an update published Wednesday, the Toronto-Dominion Bank said it now believes Greece will be forced to default in the first half of the year, sending Europe into a recession and impacting the Canadian economy indirectly. As well, Canada’s economy will be held back by high household indebtedness and government spending restraints.

The report also warns of a housing correction in British Columbia and Ontario, with prices dropping 3.5 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively in 2012. TD says the price pressures will be particularly acute in Vancouver and Toronto’s condo market.

“No provincial economy will thrive spectacularly in such a volatile, uncertain environment,” the paper states — only Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island posting plus two-per-cent growth.

The business survey, while positive overall, still suggests small and medium-sized firms remain cautious about adding on employees in the risky economic backdrop.

Only 15 per cent of respondents said they expected to add employees in the next three or four months, while 16 per cent said they planned to cut staffing, about the same, mixed level of hiring intention found in the November survey.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Glen Carritt is organizing a United We Roll Canada convoy that will travel to British Columbia in June. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Former Innisfail town councillor breached code of conduct many times, says review

Consultants say 29 of 36 alleged breaches by Glen Carritt had merit

Members of the Red Deer RCMP downtown patrol monitor for drug activity and property crimes. (Advocate file photo).
Two peace officers are training to join Red Deer’s downtown police patrol unit

This “integrated” unit will be the first in Alberta

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

A homeless shelter was promised Red Deer to help the city deal with downtown issues. The city and province finally released a signed agreement on what the facility will offer, a year after a $7 million commitment was made for the project by the province. (Advocate file photo).
City and province take next step in bringing a 24/7 shelter to Red Deer

It will include a detox and counselling services

Meteor spotted over Edmonton, Alta., on Feb. 22, 2021 by several, who took to social media to share their surveillance camera captures. (@KixxAxe/Twitter)
VIDEO: Fireball meteor streaks across sky, spotted by early-morning risers in Alberta, B.C.

Videos of the quick streak of light flashing across the sky before 6:30 a.m. MST

European Union Ambassador to Venezuela Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa meets with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza at his office in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. The meeting was called after the EU sanctioned an additional 19 Venezuelans for "undermining democracy and the rule of law" in Venezuela and the National Assembly declared the EU ambassador "persona non grata." (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Sanctions prompt Venezuela to expel head of EU delegation

Sanctions prompt Venezuela to expel head of EU delegation

Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman departs a ceremony memorializing U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, as an urn with his cremated remains lies in honor on a black-draped table at the center of the Capitol Rotunda, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, in Washington. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool)
Chief: Capitol Police were warned of violence before riot

Chief: Capitol Police were warned of violence before riot

Relatives of inmates cry outside the Centro de Privación de Libertad Zona 8 prison where riots broke out in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. Deadly riots broke out in prisons in three cities across the country due to fights between rival gangs, according to police. (AP Photo/Angel Dejesus)
Gang clashes result in Ecuador’s deadliest prison riots ever

Gang clashes result in Ecuador’s deadliest prison riots ever

El Chapo’s wife goes from obscurity to celebrity to arrest

El Chapo’s wife goes from obscurity to celebrity to arrest

This combination photo shows notable cast members from the musical "Rent," from left, Taye Diggs, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp and Daphne Rubin-Vega. The New York Theater Workshop will celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Rent” with a gala on March 2 that will be available to stream through March 6. (AP Photo)
La Vie Boheme: ‘Rent’ musical celebrates 25th anniversary

La Vie Boheme: ‘Rent’ musical celebrates 25th anniversary

This cover image released by Knopf shows "Speak, Okinawa," a memoir by Elizabeth Miki Brina. (Knopf via AP)
Review: ‘Speak, Okinawa’ is a masterful memoir and more

Review: ‘Speak, Okinawa’ is a masterful memoir and more

FILE - Yara Shahidi arrives at the 51st NAACP Image Awards in Pasadena, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2020. Shahidi not only stars in the young adult dramedy “grown-ish,” but she also serves as an executive producer. The 21-year-old, who swaps out reading scripts for text books as a Harvard student, says she’s equally invested in what happens behind the camera. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
Yara Shahidi doesn’t use her voice just to hear herself talk

Yara Shahidi doesn’t use her voice just to hear herself talk

This image released by CBS News shows the logo for the new "60 Minutes Plus" program. CBS News says it is launching a streaming version of "60 Minutes" on the new Paramount Plus service, starting next week, hoping to expose the durable brand to a younger and more diverse audience. (CBS News via AP)
‘60 Minutes’ will have streaming spinoff on Paramount+

‘60 Minutes’ will have streaming spinoff on Paramount+

Most Read