Canadian economy added 32K jobs in March, unemployment rate stays at 40-year low

Canada posted solid job growth in March, although much of it came from the public sector. Getty Images

The economy delivered 32,300 net new jobs in March as Canada generated a rush of full-time work that helped hold the national unemployment rate at a record low.

Statistics Canada says the jobless rate stayed at 5.8 per cent in March for a second consecutive month – and for the third time since December – to match its lowest level since the agency started measuring the indicator in 1976.

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StatsCan says the labour force produced 68,300 full-time positions last month and shed 35,900 part-time jobs. However, the survey shows that 19,600 of the new employee positions were created in the public sector, while the number of private-sector workers declined by 7,000.

“This months jobs survey showed a nice pickup in employment gains in Canada if you take these monthly reports seriously, which we always caution against,” Avery Shenfeld,  Chief Economist of CIBC Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients.

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Canada’s jobs numbers are notorious for large month-to-month swings, which is why economists are generally wary of reading too much into a single report and tend to focus instead on longer term trends.

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The report also found that average hourly wage growth, which has been under close scrutiny by the Bank of Canada (BoC) ahead of interest-rate decisions, strengthened in March to 3.3 per cent, up from 3.1 per cent the previous month.

Central Canada saw the biggest job gains in March as the two largest provinces – Ontario and Quebec – each added more than 10,000 net new positions. Alberta also posted a strong showing, adding over 8,000 jobs. That lowered the province’s jobless rate to 6.3 per cent, down from 6.7 per cent in February and far below the 9 per cent peak it saw in November 2016.

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Although the economy overall has slowed down in recent months, “the Canadian labour market remains healthy,” noted Douglas Porter, chief economist at BMO Financial Group.

This, however, is unlikely to be enough to change the BoC’s outlook, he said.

“The Bank is still looking at the pronounced cooldown in the housing market and the broader concerns of the brewing trade tiff between the U.S. and China.”

However, the BoC could move to raise interest rates again in the second half of the year if concerns over NAFTA dissipate and the labour market stays strong, he added.

– With files from Global News National Money and Consumer reporter Erica Alini