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State of the Labour Market

May Labour Force Survey: A Positive First Step

Today’s numbers outperformed expectations, but there remains a long way to go.

After a two-month deep freeze, the Canadian labour market finally started to thaw in May. Employment posted a modest, but still surprising rebound, boosting the share of Canadian adults with a job by 0.8 percentage points. There remains considerable ground to recover, with the employment rate still down 8.9 percentage points from February, but it’s encouraging to see progress. 

The May 10-16 reference week left some uncertainty whether the initial phase of workplace reopening across the country would be captured in the numbers. Not only did jobs pick up, but the number of lost hours among employed workers also fell.

Encouragingly, there’ve been further signs of progress since the May Labour Force Survey data was collected. New job postings on Indeed perked up later in the month, suggesting some rebound in employer hiring appetite. Meanwhile recent surveys find a portion of Canadians whose jobs were affected during the crisis indicate that work has picked-up since

How much the re-opening of shuttered areas of the economy boosts net-employment growth will in-part depend on whether layoffs slow. Growth in CERB applicants has eased through early June, but haven’t stopped, suggesting shockwaves from the pandemic continue to reverberate throughout the labour market. Durability of the rebound is going to require Canadians to have reason for optimism about the outlook for the economy, and the public health situation.