State of the Labour Market

March 2019 Labour Force Survey: A Cool Down After a Hot Start to 2019

Given the unexpected hot start to the year, it’s not surprising to see job growth take a breather in March. Employment was estimated to have eased by 7,200, but the decline was within StatCan’s margin of error, so the losses aren’t particularly disturbing. The report was a bit weaker for the working age population (ages 15-64), whose employment rate ticked down to 74.1%, where it was in November.

Interestingly, March was a strong month for jobs in the finance and real estate sector. Recent data suggests that real estate agency payrolls haven’t responded much to the sharp slowdown in Canadian home sales in recent years. This disconnect looks to have continued for the broader financial and real estate sector in March.

Today’s report was another disappointment for the Alberta job market, where the working age employment rate ticked down, and now stands at its lowest level since September 2017. However, it was the reverse in Saskatchewan, where the employment rate rose after easing to start the year. In general, momentum in the two prairie provinces has diverged in recent months, with Alberta weakening, while Saskatchewan has shown signs of improvement. Closing the gap in job market health between the oil-rich provinces and the rest of Canada is one of the main challenges facing the Candian labour market this year.

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