Unemployment rate lowest in nearly a decade; economy grows in 3rd quarter

By Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

A wave of job creation last month knocked the unemployment rate down to 5.9 per cent — its lowest level in nearly a decade.

Statistics Canada said Friday that the economy churned out another 79,500 net new jobs in November and drove the jobless rate down 0.4 percentage points from 6.3 per cent the month before.

The federal statistical agency also released fresh figures Friday for growth — they showed that the economy expanded at an annual pace of 1.7 per cent in the third quarter.

But the strong November jobs numbers stood out. The last time the unemployment rate was 5.9 per cent was February 2008 at the start of the global financial crisis.

Economists had expected an increase of 10,000 jobs and the unemployment rate to come in at 6.2 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

The increase also marked Canada’s 12th straight month of positive job creation as the country posted its best 12-month performance in 10 years. The last 12-month streak of positive job creation ended in March 2007.

The report said employment rose 2.1 per cent in the 12 months leading up to November as the economy added 390,000 net jobs — with all the gains driven by full-time work.

The labour market added 441,400 full-time positions year-over-year for an increase of three per cent and its strongest 12-month period of full-time job creation in 18 years.

The numbers show that Canada gained 29,600 full-time jobs and 49,900 part-time positions in November. The growth was concentrated in the private sector, which added 72,400 jobs last month, compared with an increase of 10,600 positions in the public sector.

The report also found a gain of 83,000 employee jobs, compared with a drop in 3,500 self-employed positions, which is a category that includes people who work in a family business without pay.

The number of factory jobs rose 37,400 last month, while the services sector added 42,100 positions.

The November survey also found that, compared with the year before, average hourly wages grew 2.8 per cent for the biggest increase since April 2016. Wage growth has climbed since it bottomed out in April 2017 at 0.7 per cent, which marked its lowest level on record.

Statistics Canada also released its latest data Friday for quarterly economic growth.

The economy expanded at an annualized rate of 1.7 per cent in the third quarter of 2017 as weaker exports applied downward pressure on growth.

Economists had expected growth in the third quarter to come in at an annualized rate of 1.6 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

The report said the increase in real gross domestic product was driven by a one per cent expansion in household spending.

Exports, however, fell on a quarter-over-quarter basis of 2.7 per cent, which included a 3.4 per cent decline in goods exports that followed three quarters of growth.

Statistics Canada also made a downward revision to Canada’s real GDP number for the second quarter — dropping it down to an annualized pace of 4.3 per cent compared with its initial reading of 4.5 per cent.

The third-quarter number was a little weaker than the Bank of Canada’s October forecast, which predicted real GDP to ring in at 1.8 per cent. The bank is projecting real GDP to expand by 2.5 per cent in the fourth quarter.

The latest real GDP figure follows four-consecutive quarters of stronger growth — 4.3 per cent, 2.2 per cent, 3.7 per cent and 4.3 per cent.

The third-quarter report also said investment in residential structures fell for a second-straight quarter — the first time since early 2013 that the category saw a decrease in two straight quarters.

The data found the compensation of employees increased 1.3 per cent in nominal terms for its strongest quarterly growth in three years.

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