Economy added 35,000 jobs in March, unemployment rate still hovering near record low

Economy added 35,000 jobs in March, unemployment rate still hovering near record low
A worker sits in an office in the financial district, in London, Monday, Dec. 13, 2021.

The Canadian economy added 35,000 jobs in March amid strong population growth, keeping the unemployment rate steady at near record lows.

In its latest labour force survey, Statistics Canada reported Thursday the unemployment rate came in at five per cent for the fourth consecutive month.

The job gains were made primarily in the private sector. Employment was up in transportation and warehousing, business, building and other support services, as well as finance, real estate, rental and leasing.

Meanwhile, jobs were lost in construction, other services and natural resources.

Brendon Bernard, a senior economist at Indeed, said the report shows the labour market is still doing well, “despite a lot of economic uncertainty.”

But Bernard cautioned that interpreting the job numbers is a bit tricky because Canada is also seeing its population grow rapidly.

Statistics Canada says the population grew by 0.3 per cent last month, while employment rose by 0.2 per cent.

“The report might not be quite as strong as the headline number might suggest,” Bernard said. “But at the same time, that five per cent unemployment rate highlights the big picture story, which is that the job market remains in solid shape.”

In Victoria, the unemployment rate is at 3.2 per cent, lower than February‘s 3.3 per cent. It is also 0.5 per cent lower than the March 2022 rate.

Brenda Bailey, B.C.’s minister of jobs, economic development and innovation, says the province has the second-lowest unemployment rate out of the provinces and up until March has added 14,300 jobs this 2023.

As employers kept their hiring appetite, wages continued to grow in March. Average hourly wages rose 5.3 per cent on an annual basis.

The Canadian labour market has been tight for months, despite high interest rates raising the cost of borrowing for people and businesses.

March marked the fourth consecutive month the unemployment rate has held at five per cent, hovering near record lows.

The Statistics Canada report showed those who are unemployed were less likely to stay out of work for a long time. The percentage of those who were unemployed in March that had been out of work for 27 weeks or more was 16 per cent, down from 20.3 per cent a year earlier.

However, the labour market tightness isn’t expected to last forever. The Bank of Canada’s aggressive rate hikes since March 2022 are expected to weigh on the economy, with economists forecasting a significant slowdown this year.

Recent surveys released by the central bank earlier this week showed consumers and businesses are preparing for that slowdown. Consumers said they’re planning to pull back on spending, while businesses are anticipating sales to slow.

That pullback is expected to filter through to the labour market and lead to a rise in unemployment.

And while businesses continued to report labour shortages as a top concern, the surveys showed there are signs that the labour market is easing.

Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2023.

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