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The Quick Take: June 8, 2018

Weak Employment Growth Belies Strong Wage Gains

Robyn Gibbard
Economist
National Forecast

“Employment was flat for the third straight month in May, and the unemployment rate was unchanged. Despite the pause in employment growth, tight labour markets and strong wage growth should keep the Bank of Canada on pace for a rate hike this summer.”

Employment declined slightly in May, as the economy shed 7,500 jobs. Full-time employment fell by 31,000, while 23,600 new part-time jobs were created.

Despite the drop in jobs, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.8 per cent for the fourth straight month as the labour force participation rate continued its downward trajectory.

There weren’t many large swings in the provincial numbers. The biggest decline in employment was in Quebec where full-time employment fell by 37,600. Meanwhile, Ontario experienced the largest gain in full-time employment, up 20,900 jobs.

By industry, employment gains were strongest in accommodation and food services (+18,000) and in professional, scientific and technical services (+17,000). Weakness was felt in health care and social assistance (–24,400) and manufacturing (–18,300). The shift from full-time to part-time work this month makes sense in the context of these industries’ performances.

Average hourly wages for all employees rose by 3.9 per cent year-over-year in May. This compares to a 3.6 per cent increase in April, as wage growth continues to accelerate in the face of a tight labour market. The 3.9 per cent year-over-year gain is the strongest since April of 2009.

Wage growth occurred in every province, although some did much better than others. The most impressive performances were in: British Columbia, where wages were up 6.9 per cent from last May; in Ontario (+4.7 per cent); and in Alberta (+4.4 per cent). On the other hand, wage growth was weaker in Manitoba (+1.6 per cent) and Quebec (+1.8 per cent).

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