OTTAWA – The Canadian job market mustered a disappointing headline number last month, but experts say the broader batches of economic data are still pointing to the economy’s bounce back in the coming months.
The labour market itself, however, has swung back and forth in recent months to produce only a modest result over the longer term.
That month-to-month volatility continued Friday when Statistics Canada released its latest job numbers, which showed the economy lost 19,700 net positions in April. Last month’s decline followed an unexpected increase of 28,700 jobs in March.
“At the end of the day, kind of an ugly top line, but the details I think were a bit firmer,” RBC assistant chief economist Dawn Desjardins said of the April figures.
Desjardins said the positives include the national unemployment rate holding steady in April — for the third straight month — at 6.8 per cent. The survey, she added, also showed an acceleration in wage growth and a jump in full-time employment after a March tumble.
Between March and April, the country added 46,900 net full-time positions and shed 66,500 part-time jobs, Statistics Canada said. The economy also registered a net gain of the more-desirable 24,200 private-sector positions compared to a net loss of 19,900 jobs in the public sector.
The fresh basket of data for April — the first month of the second quarter — represents the start of a crucial flow of economic numbers for a country still smarting from the oil slump.
Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz has said his fingers are crossed that the economy will rebound in the second quarter. The central bank has predicted zero growth for the first three months of 2015 — a stretch Poloz has warned will yield “atrocious” economic data.
Desjardins noted that several earlier data releases for April have shown promise, including increases in vehicle and housing sales.
Back on the labour front, Desjardins says the numbers show more than 40,000 jobs were created over the first four months of the year. Another encouraging sign, she noted.
“Not a tremendous performance, not blowing out the lights, but certainly not terrible,” she said.
“The bones for a bounce in economic growth in the second quarter are definitely there, so we are looking for a pretty solid rebound.”
The slide in April data, which produced a headline number lower than economists’ expectations, was blamed in part on the layoffs that followed the demise of retailer Target Canada.
Statistics Canada’s trade category, which includes retail and wholesale trade, lost 20,500 positions last month. The construction industry, meanwhile, shed 28,400 jobs in April.
“Outside of that, things held up relatively well,” said BMO chief economist Douglas Porter.
Job growth, Porter added, has been quite modest over the past year at less than one per cent, which explains why the unemployment rate has hovered just underneath seven per cent.
Compared to April 2014, Statistics Canada found employment up by 139,100 jobs thanks to a boost from 165,800 net new full-time positions over the same period.
The slight increase in employment has been just enough to offset the growing population, Porter said.
Aside from the increasingly predictable see-saw in the monthly headline numbers, April’s regional data also contained a few surprises — starting with Alberta’s performance.
The energy-rich province, which was expected to take a hit from lower oil prices, added 12,500 net jobs last month — even though the province’s natural resources sector lost 3,500 positions.
The April jobs numbers, however, were a letdown for British Columbia. The province lost 28,700 net jobs last month and saw its unemployment rate rise to 6.3 per cent, up from 5.8 per cent the month before.
The country’s youth unemployment rate climbed to 13.6 per cent last month, up from 13 per cent in March. The data showed there were 13,200 fewer jobs last month for young workers, aged 15 to 24, than the month before.
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