Job­less rate hits 40-year low

‘Gang­busters’ data bumps jobs, but wage growth slows again

The Sudbury Star - - BUSINESS - ANDY BLATCHFORD THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

OT­TAWA — A blast of new jobs last month knocked the coun­try’s un­em­ploy­ment rate down to its low­est level since Statis­tics Canada started mea­sur­ing com­pa­ra­ble data more than 40 years ago —but de­spite eye-catch­ing progress, Fri­day’s num­bers also de­liv­ered dis­ap­point­ment.

Canada added 94,100 net jobs for its largest monthly in­crease since March 2012 when there was a gain of 94,000 jobs, Statis­tics Canada said in its the labour force sur­vey. The Novem­ber surge was fu­elled by other pos­i­tives: 89,900 new full­time po­si­tions and 78,600 em­ployee jobs in the pri­vate sec­tor.

The job­less rate fell to 5.6 per cent last month from Oc­to­ber’s read­ing of 5.8 per cent, which had been the pre­vi­ous low mark since com­pa­ra­ble data first be­came avail­able in 1976. The old sta­tis­ti­cal ap­proach — prior to 1976 — reg­is­tered an un­em­ploy­ment rate read­ing of 5.4 per cent in 1974.

The improvements, how­ever, ob­scured a key piece of data: weak­en­ing wage growth.

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

“There’s no ques­tion that the head­line job growth is gang­busters strong,” said Frances Don­ald, head of macroe­co­nomic strat­egy at Man­ulife As­set Man­age­ment

“I would cau­tion us against cel­e­brat­ing too quickly, how­ever, be­cause wage growth is de­cel­er­at­ing sharply.”

Ex­perts have been ex­pect­ing wage growth to pick up its pace, thanks to the tight­ened labour mar­ket. But the op­po­site has been hap­pen­ing — wage growth has dropped ev­ery month since its May peak of 3.9 per cent and now sits well be­low in­fla­tion.

The Bank of Canada keeps a close watch on wages ahead of its in­ter­est-rate de­ci­sions.

The cen­tral bank has raised the rate five times since the sum­mer of 2017 in re­sponse to Canada’s strong eco­nomic per­for­mance. Gover­nor Stephen Poloz has sig­nalled that more in­creases will be needed to keep in­fla­tion from ris­ing too high.

On Wed­nes­day, how­ever, Poloz held the benchmark rate at 1.75 per cent. In ex­plain­ing the de­ci­sion, he high­lighted other eco­nomic neg­a­tives such as weaker-than-ex­pected busi­ness in­vest­ment and the steep slide in oil prices.

The bank’s next rate an­nounce­ment will be Jan. 9.

Don­ald ex­pects the bank to re­main fo­cused on oil prices, the ca­pac­ity of the en­ergy sec­tor to en­gage in busi­ness in­vest­ment and the abil­ity of Cana­di­ans — many of whom are car­ry­ing very high debt loads — to man­age higher in­ter­est rates.

“Cana­di­ans need more wage growth to off­set higher in­ter­est rates,” she said.

“If we’re see­ing wage growth that can’t even keep up with the pace of in­fla­tion, it makes it much more dif­fi­cult for house­holds to ab­sorb the Bank of Canada’s de­sire to lift rates higher from this point for­ward.”

Poloz, she added, will be more con­cerned about the fur­ther slow­down in wages in Fri­day’s re­port than op­ti­mistic about the over­all job gain, par­tic­u­larly since it could af­fect the pace at which he will lift rates.

Royce Men des of CI BC Eco­nomics said the Bank of Canada will take no­tice of the “mas­sive read­ing” in the Novem­ber jobs re­port as it mulls next month’s rate de­ci­sion.

“The large gain in jobs will keep a Jan­uary rate hike on the ta­ble for now, but we’ll need to see sim­i­larly pos­i­tive ev­i­dence from other in­di­ca­tors and no ma­jor rev­er­sal in the next jobs re­port,” Mendes wrote Fri­day in a re­search note to clients un­der the head­line: “Cana­dian Job Cre­ation: Mind-Bog­glingly Strong in Novem­ber.”

Statis­tics Canada’s re­port Fri­day also said that, com­pared to 12 months ear­lier, em­ploy­ment was up 1.2 per cent fol­low­ing a net in­crease of 218,800 jobs. The ad­di­tion of 227,400 full-time po­si­tions off­set a small de­crease in part-time work.

The Novem­ber jobs re­port showed the goods-pro­duc­ing sec­tor added 26,900 jobs fol­low­ing a no­table gain of 14,800 con­struc­tion po­si­tions. The ser­vices sec­tor gen­er­ated 67,200 jobs last month with help from the ad­di­tion of 26,000 po­si­tions in pro­fes­sional, sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal ser­vices.

By re­gion, em­ploy­ment rose in six prov­inces and was led by gains in Que­bec and Al­berta.

DAR­RYL DYCK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Fab­ri­ca­tor Mike Cal­darino uses a grinder on a steel stairs be­ing man­u­fac­tured for a high school in Red­mond, Wash., at Ge­orge Third & Son Steel Fabri­ca­tors and Erec­tors, in Burn­aby, B.C., in March.

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