March Marks Another Month of Canadian Job Gains

March Marks Another Month of Canadian Job Gains

Canada added 32.3k jobs on net in March, an improvement over February’s 15.4k pace. A roughly equal climb in the size of the labour force (+30.1k) left the unemployment rate unchanged at 5.8%.

It was full-time employment that led the way in March, with 68.3k net positions added, more than offsetting a 35.9k decline in part-time employment.

Public sector employment added 19.6k positions as the private sector shed 7k. With this resulting in just a 12.5k net gain in employees, it was self-employment that rounded out the gain, up 19.8k in March.

The report presented a mixed bag in terms of industries: notable gains were seen in construction (+18.3k), public administration (+11.9), and educational services (+8.4k). On the other side, notable net declines were recorded for information services (-8.7k) and manufacturing (-8.3k).

Regionally, the majority of the action was seen in Quebec (+16k), Ontario (+10.6k), and Alberta (+8.3). While provincial unemployment rates were little changed in general, Alberta stood out as its rate dropped from 6.7% to 6.3%.

Despite the bulk of the gains being recorded in full-time work, aggregate hours were roughly unchanged in March, bringing the year-on-year pace to 2.2%. On the wage front, there was little change as wages among permanent employees matched February’s 3.1% gain in March.

Key Implications

On its face, today’s report is something of a mixed bag. The main roulette wheel may have landed on an above-expectations 32.3k net positions, but the details were decidedly mixed. All of the gains were in full-time employment, but the bulk of the net change was in self-employment. Moreover, hours worked – a  helpful measure of overall economic activity – turned in a soft performance.

Of course, with a report as volatile as this, caution should be the watchword. Trends are much more informative, and they remain fairly solid. On a 6 month moving average basis, both headline (22.2k) and full-time (36.9k) job gains remain in healthy territory, while part-time employment continues to trend lower.

Identifying a trend in wages is more challenging. After a rapid ascent over the back half of last year, there are signs of stabilization around the 3% mark. While this pace of wage gains is fairly robust by the standards of the inflation targeting era, the Bank of Canada has indicated that this pace is nevertheless below what they would expect in an economy with tight labour markets. As such, we doubt that today’s report will do much to move the needle in terms of bringing rate hikes forward.

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