November 7, 2014 1:30 pm
Updated: November 7, 2014 5:48 pm

Canada’s labour market hits ‘higher gear’ as jobless rate dives

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ABOVE: Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver talks jobs numbers, youth unemployment.

What a difference a couple of months can make.

Canada’s job market is hitting its stride it seems, taking meaningful — and unexpectedly big — leaps of late toward full employment, jumps that have served to erase much of the weakness seen this year up to autumn.

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Employers ramped up hiring in October to the tune of 43,100 net new jobs, Statistics Canada said Friday, a tally that builds on the eye-popping 74,100 positions added in September.

The combined totals have pushed the jobless rate to a six-year low.

The back-to-back gains — the first time that’s happened this year — also seemingly halt the erratic and sometimes violent swings between monthly job losses and gains through much of 2014.

“The see-saw pattern is gone,” CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld declared.

And against the backdrop of a U.S. economy that’s gathering force for further expansion, Canada’s job burst may have some momentum.

Last month’s rise “is the most encouraging sign yet that the economy may have shifted into a higher gear,” experts at Capital Economics said.

The October gains pushed the jobless rate down three tenths of a percentage point to 6.5 per cent, the lowest level since November 2008 or the eve of the Great Recession.

‘The most encouraging sign yet that the economy may have shifted into a higher gear.’

In a stark reversal of the downbeat sentiment earlier in the year when job creation was dismal and gains consisted largely of part-time work, economists now say the sudden flourish is pushing labour conditions toward full employment.

“The jobless rate took a dive to a new cycle low … making a leap towards [a level] likely to be deemed full employment,” Shenfeld said.

“It’s happened quite quickly,” Diana Petramala, an economist at TD Economics said.

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The pace of hiring is likely to take a breather, Petramala suggested, but payrolls should still rise further in tandem with demand from the U.S. economy.

“All signs are pointing to continued modest improvement in the labour market in the near term,” the TD economist said.

Part-time nation no more

The economy has added more than 95,000 full-time jobs since August, while part-time job numbers have increased by a paltry 12,000, a swing that’s helped bring the two sides into balance.

Part-time work, which tends to pay less and provide less stability than full-time work, rose substantially through much of the year while full-time positions declined.

But the rise of part-time work over full-time now appears to be inverting, economists said.

MORE: Experts fret Canada becoming ‘a nation of part-time workers’

“The slow recovery in full-time jobs share over the past three months may allay some of these concerns especially if this trend continues,” RBC economist Dawn Desjardins said.

“Encouragingly, full-time employment increased strongly for the second consecutive month,” Capital Economics’ David Madani said.

Over the past six months, full-time employment gains have now matched part-time, according to Capital Economics.

Headwinds

Still, there remain threats that could drag on job growth, Petramala and other experts warn. Slowing growth beyond North America could hit exports, they say, while lower prices for oil and other commodities could cut growth at home and result in another labour slowdown.

MORE: Oil just slipped below $80 — and it’s expected to fall further

It may already be starting. Canada’s all-important oil and gas sector cut 22,200 jobs last month, as oil dove below $80 a barrel.

“This sector will no doubt be watch more carefully over the coming months,” BMO senior economist Benjamin Reitzes said.


job report

— Graphic by Janet Cordahi, Global News

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