February 27, 2014

Weather has obscured employment gains in several major metro areas

The latest employment numbers suggest that following a December freeze marked by a 45,000 drop in total employment, Canada’s labour market thawed somewhat in January.

Given that the thermometer remained well below 0°C for most of the month, it is not surprising that the January employment gain of 29,400 did not completely erase the December decline.

However, the fact that it was driven by a 50,500 increase in full-time jobs suggests the effects of the so-called “polar vortex” which swept over much of the country forced a large number of firms to temporarily scale back their activities ahead of the holidays.

This observation is reinforced by the fact a large portion of the jobs lost in December were in the more weather-sensitive construction and agriculture industries.

Further evidence that the volatility in employment over the past two months was weather influenced can be found in the pronounced fluctuation in the number of self-employed whose services are frequently contracted.

Although the weather temporarily distorted the pattern of job creation for the country as a whole during the past couple of months, over the past twelve months employment growth in four of the country’s major metro areas has been significantly higher than the national average.

Contrary to what many would expect, the fastest-growing metro area, in terms of job creation over the past twelve months was not in the West but rather in Ontario.

Indeed, between February of 2013 and January of 2014 employment growth in Barrie, Ontario averaged 7.3%, significantly above both the provincial growth rate of 1.3% and the 1.2% recorded for the country as a whole. Across Barrie’s key industrial sectors, education services accounted for most of the new jobs followed by construction, health care and information and culture.

Both of the second- and third-fastest growing metro areas in Canada are in Saskatchewan. Among the 33 major metro areas in the country, Saskatoon ranked second with a growth rate of 6.9%, and Regina placed third at 5.9%.

Despite their relative proximity and the fact that resources indirectly fuel economic activity in both metro areas, the Saskatoon economy has relied more heavily on gains in goods-producing industries which accounted for 46% of job gains compared to the Regina economy where goods-producing industries were responsible for just over 26% of the growth of employment.

Surprisingly, for us anyway, the fourth-fastest growing metro economy in Canada over the past twelve months is none other than Toronto.

It has seen employment growth average 3.8% over the past twelve months due to strong gains in transportation and warehousing (+14.8% year-over-year), construction (+12.4% year-over-year), wholesale and retail trade (+6.8% year-over-year) and business, building and other support services (+11.8% year-over-year).

John Clinkard has over 30 years’ experience as an economist in international, national and regional research and analysis with leading financial institutions and media outlets in Canada.

Employment growth in major metro areas*

*Average year over year growth January 2013 to January 2014.

Data Source: Statistics Canada/Chart: Reed Construction Data, Canadata

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