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March Labour Force Survey: Big Gains, but the Third Wave Looms


Several industries showed solid growth.

The labour market took a major step forward in March, as Canadian employment made another eye-popping jump. Gains came from several pandemic-exposed sectors, especially retail and wholesale trade, while momentum also continued elsewhere. Both business sentiment and Indeed job postings jumped in March, so it’s heartening to see those trends translate to an improving situation for job seekers. 

Looking ahead, the timeline for Canada’s labour market recovery hinges on whether employment grows at a pace consistent with a typical economic expansion, or can maintain the outsized pace seen during reopening periods. Prior to today’s report, we found that the Canadian employment rate has a chance to recover this year if gains can maintain a 95,000 monthly pace. While we’re not there yet, the March jobs surge puts us ahead of schedule. 

At the same time, areas of the economy most vulnerable to the pandemic, like accommodation and food services, continue to struggle, and recent progress will likely slow in April as the third wave and resulting public health restrictions send activity backwards. It will take major strides on the vaccination front for the labour market recovery to be sustainable.