State of the Labour Market

February Labour Force Survey: Quiet Jobs Report Amid The Big Headlines


Survey took place before COVID-19 turmoil fully set in.

The employment numbers flew under the headlines in February, posting a modest gain for the month. The big question was whether concern over COVID-19 would start to make an imprint on the job market. However, the survey occurred the week of February 9th, before global turmoil really started to surge and financial markets responded. We’ll have to wait for the March report to get a better sense of how the job market is handling the shock — a clear wildcard for this year’s outlook.

The February report continues the gradual moderation of job growth in recent months following the rapid pace we saw in mid-2019. The year-over-year pace of job growth has now slipped below population growth, which remains strong. But there was still some good news. Alberta posted a modest rebound after a freezing January, while Quebec has now fully reversed the working-age employment rate decline that weighed on Canada-wide numbers at the end of 2019.  

Despite a relatively gloomy start to 2020, wage growth continues to show strength, posting another +4% increase on a 12-month basis. These gains have been concentrated in the provinces with tighter labour markets. If this current pace is maintained and businesses in exposed sectors take a hit from COVID-19-related uncertainty, some employers will have to make difficult decisions about whether to cut payrolls in a relatively tough hiring environment. 

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