|January’s payroll gain was a huge 48,300 Statistics Canada said on Friday in Ottawa, well above economists’ forecast of a loss of 10,000 jobs. This follows a gain of a whopping 46,100 in December. The unemployment rate fell by 0.1 percentage points to 6.8%.
Employment growth has been strong since August. Canada posted the best quarterly hiring gain since 2010 in the final quarter of last year. Full-time employment held steady following a substantial increase in December. This may signal the country’s economy is finally turning the corner after two years of pain induced by the collapse in oil prices.
Most of the job gains were for men aged 25 to 54, with the increase of about 30,000, the largest in more than two years.
Gains in the average hourly wages of permanent employees slowed to 1% in January from a year earlier, the smallest gain since 2003, from the 1.5% pace in the last two months.
Hours worked also fell 0.8% from a year earlier.
Thus, the report continued to show signs of an uneven job market, something that has led Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz to stress there’s much more labour slack than in the US, meaning there could be further divergence in monetary policy as the Fed continues to gradually hike rates and the Bank of Canada remains on the sidelines this year.
Demand for financial and business services led the way in January. Employment in finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing increased by 21,000, bringing gains from 12 months earlier to 59,000 (+5.3%), with most of this increase concentrated in the last six months.
There were 16,000 more people working in business, building and other support services last month. On a year-over-year basis, employment in this industry was little changed.
Compared with December, employment rose in Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. In contrast, there were fewer people working in New Brunswick. Employment was little changed in the remaining provinces.
Canadian labour markets have improved relative to the US, as labour force participation rates remain above unusually weak levels in the US. Adjusted to the measurement concepts in the US, the unemployment rate in Canada was 5.7% in January, compared with 4.8% in the US. Over the past year, the jobless rate fell 0.5 percentage points in Canada, while it was little changed in the US as it nears full-employment.
In January, the labour force participation rate was 65.8% in Canada (adjusted to US concepts) and 62.9% in the US. On a year-over-year basis, the participation rate was unchanged in Canada, while it increased slightly in the US as some discouraged workers resumed their job search.
In a separate report, Canada posted a second consecutive monthly trade surplus. Exports increased 0.8% on the strength of higher energy product prices. Imports increased 1.0%, mainly reflecting stronger imports of aircraft and industrial machinery.
Canada’s merchandise trade surplus with the United States narrowed from $4.7 billion in November to $4.4 billion in December. This will no doubt be a topic of discussion on Monday in Washington when PM Trudeau meets with President Trump. Those discussions will likely be cordial, although the renegotiation of NAFTA and Trump’s threat of a border tax has jeopardized the stability of one of the largest two-way trading partnerships in the world.