Work­force shrink­ing yet job­less rate low­est yet

The London Free Press - - LOCAL - JONATHAN JUHA [email protected]­

The Lon­don area’s job­less rate last month matched an all-time low, but the lo­cal labour pool shrank for the sec­ond straight month in Novem­ber, putting a cloud over what other­wise would be a pos­i­tive job mar­ket re­port.

Statis­tics Canada fig­ures show the job­less rate in the Lon­don cen­sus metropoli­tan area, which in­cludes St. Thomas, Strathroy and parts of El­gin and Mid­dle­sex coun­ties, dropped in Novem­ber to 4.8 per cent — match­ing a record low for the re­gion set in 2004 — from 4.9 per cent in Oc­to­ber.

But af­ter months of steady gains, it was also the sec­ond month in a row the re­gion didn’t see gains in to­tal em­ploy­ment, with the num­ber of peo­ple em­ployed drop­ping by about 2,900 to 253,400.

The labour force, which in­cludes those work­ing and look­ing for work, went down in Novem­ber to 266,200 from 269,500 in Oc­to­ber. Oc­to­ber’s num­ber it­self re­flected a loss of 1,100 peo­ple.

While call­ing some of these fig­ures “dis­cour­ag­ing,” Don Kerr, a King’s Univer­sity Col­lege pro­fes­sor, said there’s no rea­son to press the panic but­ton and be­lieve things are slow­ing down.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve cap­tured a trend quite yet. Yes, it is ev­i­dence that the de­mand for labour is stag­nat­ing some­what, but we can’t say the labour force sur­vey is de­ci­sive on this as of yet. I would wait for an­other cou­ple of months be­fore draw­ing that con­clu­sion.”

More dis­cour­ag­ing is the par­tic­i­pa­tion rate — the per­cent­age of adults in the Lon­don area ei­ther work­ing or seek­ing work — which edged down to 60.3 per cent in Novem­ber from 61.1 per cent in Oc­to­ber and re­mains be­low the On­tario av­er­age of 64.4 per cent.

“Our pop­u­la­tion growth has been solid over the last year, but em­ploy­ment growth has not kept up with this,” Kerr said. “I am cer­tain there are many Lon­don­ers who want to work, but are not work­ing.”

In On­tario, em­ploy­ment rose by 20,000 in Novem­ber over Oc­to­ber, bring­ing year-over-year gains to 66,000, most of them in full-time work. The un­em­ploy­ment rate, how­ever, re­mained un­changed at 5.6 per cent, thanks in part to an in­crease of 19,600 in the num­ber of peo­ple look­ing for work.

Na­tion­ally, the pic­ture looked bet­ter. A blast of 94,100 new jobs knocked the coun­try’s un­em­ploy­ment rate down to 5.6 per cent — its low­est since Statis­tics Canada started mea­sur­ing com­pa­ra­ble data more than 40 years ago.

The num­ber marked the largest monthly in­crease since March 2012, when there was a gain of 94,000 jobs, Statscan said.

The Novem­ber em­ploy­ment surge was fu­elled by the ad­di­tion of 89,900 full-time po­si­tions. The pri­vate sec­tor added 78,600 po­si­tions in Novem­ber, while the pub­lic sec­tor gained 8,300 jobs.

Last month’s in­crease pushed the job­less rate down from Oc­to­ber’s 5.8 per cent, which had been the pre­vi­ous low mark since com­pa­ra­ble data be­came avail­able in 1976.

“Broadly speak­ing, it is a pretty pos­i­tive re­port and there’s a lot to like,” said Brian DePratto, a se­nior economist at TD Bank Group.

“You are see­ing, by and large, full-time, pri­vate-sec­tor em­ploy­ment,” he said. “And even with the labour force in­crease, you are see­ing the un­em­ploy­ment rate go­ing down, and that is a very en­cour­ag­ing sign.”

Wage growth, how­ever, re­mains among the few neg­a­tive de­tails in the Statis­tics Canada re­port.

Year-over-year av­er­age hourly wage growth for per­ma­nent em­ploy­ees con­tin­ued its de­cline in Novem­ber, off 1.46 per cent to its weak­est read­ing since July 2017.

Ex­perts ex­pected wage growth to rise thanks to the tighter labour mar­ket, but it has dropped monthly since its May peak of 3.9 per cent. It now sits well be­low in­fla­tion.

“I think it is very sur­pris­ing, more than any­thing else, be­cause when you think of an econ­omy that is adding as many jobs and an un­em­ploy­ment rate that is at an all-time low, this is not the kind of sit­u­a­tions you as­so­ciate with an econ­omy per­form­ing at this level,” DePratto said. “So it is still a bit of mys­tery.”

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