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Canada adds 157K jobs in September, employment returns to pre-pandemic level

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Statistics Canada says the labour market added 157,000 jobs in September, bringing employment back to February 2020 levels for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The unemployment rate fell to 6.9 per cent, down from 7.1 per cent in August.

The last time Canada has this large an employment gain was in June 2021, when the economy added 231,000 jobs.

The statistics agency says the job gains were widespread, but concentrated in full-time work and evenly split between the public and private sector.

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Businesses hard hit already during the pandemic are dealing with a shortage of staff

Still, the ranks of long-term unemployed who have been without work for six month or more remained little changed last month and was still double the number recorded in February 2020.

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And Statistics Canada notes that the employment rate remains just below the pre-pandemic figure, reflecting the fact that job growth hasn’t matched population growth over the past 19 months.

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The statistics agency says the job gains were widespread, but concentrated in full-time work and evenly split between the public and private sector. Gains were also notable in industries where many workers continue to work remotely.

Still, the ranks of long-term unemployed who have been without work for six month or more remained little changed last month and was still double the number recorded in February 2020.

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Leah Nord, senior director of workforce strategies with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, says the fact that nearly 400,000 Canadians are long-term unemployed should put a pause on any celebrations, particularly with no data to explain why they haven’t been able to rejoin the labour force in months.

“Canadians want to work, most are not unemployed by choice, so we need to dig down and find out exactly what’s holding them back so we can make evidence-based decisions,” she says in a statement.

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“Our full economic recovery depends on it.”

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Alberta adds 20,000 jobs in September as employment rate reaches pre-pandemic levels

Employment also fell by 20,000 in retail trade in September, bringing employment in the sector to within 71,000 jobs, or 3.1 per cent, of its February 2020 level. Statistics Canada notes that despite the easing of restrictions across Canada, employment in the industry has been around the same level since June.

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A similar story played out in the hard-hit accommodation and food services sector, which saw its first decline in five months as 27,000 jobs were lost after gaining 211,000 positions between May and August.

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Why Indigenous employment is critical to COVID-19 pandemic recovery

The statistics agency also notes the employment rate remains just below the pre-pandemic figure, reflecting the fact that job growth hasn’t matched population growth over the past 19 months.

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CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes says the headline figures for the month likely seals the deal for the Bank of Canada to further ease the pace of its bond-buying program later this month.

He adds that there is still a ways to go to fully heal the labour market.

A quick look at Canada's September employment

Numbers from the previous month in brackets:

Unemployment rate: 6.9 per cent (7.1)

Employment rate: 60.9 per cent (60.5)

Participation rate: 65.5 per cent (65.1)

Number unemployed: 1,421,800 (1,440,000)

Number working: 19,131,200 (18,974,100)

Youth (15-24 years) unemployment rate: 11.3 per cent (11.6)

Men (25 plus) unemployment rate: 6.4 per cent (6.6)

Women (25 plus) unemployment rate: 5.9 per cent (6.0)

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