Canada sees slight jobs decline as wages accelerate, unemployment rate stays low

OTTAWA—Canada’s economy posted a slight decline in employment in June, a month that still saw the jobless rate stay near its four-decade low and wages rise to their highest level in over a year.

The unemployment rate edged up to 5.5 per cent, compared with 5.4 per cent in May—which was its lowest mark since the government started collecting comparable data in 1976, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Overall, the report said the economy shed 2,200 net positions after adding about 24,000 full-time jobs and the losing about 26,000 part-time jobs.

Even with the small decline, the labour market has had a strong start to the year.

The economy added 248,000 new positions—almost all of which were full time—over the first half of 2019 to give Canada its strongest six-month stretch of job growth to start a year since 2002.

The labour force survey’s measures for wages, among the indicators closely followed by the Bank of Canada ahead of its interest-rate decisions, perked up last month.

Year-over-year average hourly wage growth for all employees was 3.8 per cent in June, giving the indicator its strongest month since May 2018 and second-best reading in a decade. It has been climbing in recent months—after hitting 2.8 per cent in May and 2.5 per cent in April.

Quebec saw wage growth reach five per cent for its highest level since April 2009.

CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld didn’t expect the jobs report Friday to change the Bank of Canada’s thinking ahead its interest-rate announcement next Wednesday. Like most analysts, he predicts the central bank to leave the rate unchanged.

“We’ll forgive Canada’s job market for taking an early summer holiday in terms of employment gains, given the massive surge in hiring that preceded it,” Shenfeld wrote in a report to clients.

“The details of June were a bit more encouraging with a (24,000) climb in full-time employment and the weakness concentrated in ‘self employment,’ as paid jobs gains a hefty (39,000).”

Compared with a year earlier, employment was up 421,100 or 2.3 per cent, the report said. Of those new positions, 314,500 of them were full time.

Last month, paid employee positions rose by 39,200, with 16,200 new jobs in the public sector and 23,000 in the private sector.

The number of people who identified themselves as self-employed dropped by 41,400.

The factory sector shed 32,800 jobs in June with the bulk of the losses in manufacturing.

The services sector added 30,600 jobs last month following a surge of new positions created in health care and social assistance.