Unemployment rate drops to 6.9% in September: Canada gains 11,900 jobs, above analyst expectations

CBC News October 11, 2013 - Canada's unemployment rate declined 0.2 percentage points in September to 6.9 per cent as the country gained 11,900 jobs, slightly more than the 10,000 expected by analysts, according to the most recent Statistics Canada labour force survey.

Year-on-year, there was a gain of 212,000 jobs, but that rise was offset by a comparable increase in the working-age population, meaning the employment rate was little changed, rising just 1.2 per cent compared with a year ago, according to the survey released Friday.

The September job gains were also offset by a decline in the rate of eligible workers participating in the job market, which stood at 66.4 per cent, 0.2 percentage points lower than in August and the lowest level since 2002. The labour force shrank by 25,100 people between August and September.

"In an echo of the U.S. trend, much of the improvement reflects a fading in the participation rate and not fundamental strength in jobs growth," said Douglas Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, in a note to investors.

Analysts generally see a dip in the unemployment rate below seven per cent as significant because it indicates the rate is approaching what is considered the country's "natural" unemployment rate, but Porter said the shrinking labour force and lucklustre wage gains might put a different spin on that interpretation.

"The drooping participation rate may force a rethink on what constitutes Canada’s natural rate of unemployment," he wrote. "The rule of thumb used to be 6.5 per cent, but it's now likely lower than that — we're already at 6.9 per cent with no sign of wage pressures."

Wages rose just 1.8 per cent year-on-year in September, better than August's rise of 1.5 per cent but still "barely better than recent inflation trends," Porter pointed out.

Manufacturing, public administration lose jobs

The job gains in September were primarily in the private sector, and were concentrated in finance, insurance, real estate and leasing as well as natural resources and agriculture while manufacturing and public administration saw employment go down.

The public administration sector lost 17,000 jobs in September. The industry has been losing jobs since February and has seen employment decline by 7.2 per cent over that period.

Manufacturing lost 26,000 jobs in September, and employment in that sector dropped 4.1 per cent year-on-year. Construction was also hard hit last month, losing 14,000 jobs.

"The weakness in these two key sectors is the one main sour note in today's report," Porter said.

The natural resources sector, meanwhile, saw a 4.7 per cent increase in employment year-on-year and gained 19,000 jobs in September, which was the second-strongest increase after the financial services sector, which gained 33,000 jobs.

Overall, there were more private-sector employees in September but fewer self-employed. Statistics Canada said that since September 2012, part-time employment has grown at a faster rate than full-time employment, resulting in a rise in the number of hours worked of just 0.8 per cent year-on-year. In September, the number of hours dropped 0.2 per cent from a month earlier.

Jobs across the provinces

Regionally, employment increased in New Brunswick and dropped in Saskatchewan, but the other provinces saw little change, Statistics Canada said.

Saskatchewan saw the biggest year-on-year increase in jobs after Alberta. Employment in the province rose 3.1 per cent over a year ago, and its unemployment rate was a mere 4.3 per cent, the same as Alberta's and the lowest in the country.

There were fewer young people (between ages 15 and 24) looking for work in September, which brought the unemployment rate in that demographic down to 12.9 per cent, a decline of 1.2 percentage points over August.

In Ontario, the effect of the youth population withdrawing from the job market as school resumed in September pushed the unemployment rate down 0.2 percentage points to 7.3 per cent. 

"Compared with 12 months earlier, employment in the province grew by 1.7 per cent, above the national average of 1.2 per cent," Statistics Canada said.

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