Economic analysis

Canada is a job juggernaut — except in manufacturing

Employment grew 6X more than expected in February, but mostly it was the service sector

To recap:

  • The Canadian economy added a whopping 51,000 jobs in February, Statistics Canada said today. That was over six times the meagre consensus expectation of 8,000 new jobs.
  • The unemployment rate remained steady at seven per cent as more Canadians joined the labour force last month after many abandoned the job search in January.
  • The pick-up in jobs growth comes after employment declined by 22,000 positions in January.
  • Compared to February 2012, employment last month was up by 336,000 jobs, mostly full-time positions. Employment in the private and public sector grew at the same pace, expanding by roughly two per cent on year-ago levels.
  • Job gains were widespread across provinces. Manitoba was the lone jurisdiction that registered losses (-3,200), which, however, coincided with a decline in labour force participation and left the unemployment rate unaffected.
  • Across industries, the lion’s share of new jobs came from the service sector. Manufacturing, by contrast, shed 26,000 positions compared to the previous month, leaving employment levels roughly unchanged since February 2012.

What the analysts are saying:

  • Although Canadian employment numbers are known for their wild swings — the statistical sample is, after all, rather small — February’s data bode well for a GDP rebound in the first quarter of 2013 after the economy grew at near-zero rates for the latter half of 2012, wrote CIBC’s Emanuella Enenajor.
  • A flat jobless rate, wrote TD’s Sonya Gulati, is actually welcome news after January saw the largest labour force exit since April 1995. That the headline unemployment number remained unchanged means some of those who had abandoned the job search (and who consequently were no longer formally being counted as unemployed) are back at it or have found employment.
  • RBC’s Paul Ferley noted the real estate industry continued to add construction jobs (+15,800), a puzzling trend given the slowdown in the housing market, unless the growth is driven by the non-residential sector.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.