Unemployment rate drops after strong job gains in May

An impressive 95,000 Canadians found work in May, enough of a surge in employment to push the unemployment rate down 0.1 percentage points to 7.1 per cent, Statistics Canada reports. Most of the new jobs were full time and more than half of them (51,000) were in Ontario. Compared with one year ago, employment grew 1.4 per cent, or 250,000 jobs. In Ontario, the growth was 0.4 per cent, enough to push the unemployment rate down to 7.3 per cent, its lowest four and a half years. On a year-over-year basis, job growth in Ontario came in at 2 per cent. The national average was 1.4 per cent.

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Employment in Canada. Source: Statistics Canada

All of the employment gains were in the private sector, following two months in which jobs were lost there. Year-over-year, the number of private sector employees increased 1.1 per cent, or 123,000, with the biggest gains in the construction industry. The number of workers in construction rose by 43,000 in May. This put the number working in construction 5.8 per cent, or 74,000, higher than one year ago.

Other areas of improvement were retail and wholesale trade, which saw gains of 27,000. The category “other services,” which includes household related work such as repairs, maintenance and private services, made gains of 22,000 in May. And the number of workers in business, building and support services rose by 21,000 in May.

Demographically, the greatest gains were among youth and those over the age of 55. Youths, defined as those between 15 and 24 years of age, found 54,000 jobs in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, enough to push the unemployment rate for the group down slightly to 13.6 per cent. Employment for the above-55 demographic grew by 34,000 in May. The unemployment rate for this group is now 5.8 per cent. There was little change for those aged 25 to 54.

In the province of Quebec employment rose by 20,000, and in Alberta by 19,000. Despite the gains in Alberta, unemployment actually rose 0.4 percentage points to 4.8 per cent, because of more people looking for work.

The prime minister, Stephen Harper, noted that monthly changes in the employment numbers cannot be taken too seriously as they are “volatile,” but he did point out that since the recession there have been one million “net new jobs created.”

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