December’s jobs numbers look bad—but not everywhere

You just have to know where to look


Canada Employment rate, 2009-2013


Few other words are needed to describe the latest job figures for Canada as the country shed almost 46,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate now stands at 7.2%, up 0.2 percentage points over November.

In a research report Krishen Rangasamy, an economist at National Bank, describes the numbers as being awful across the board. The news gets even worse if you consider the declines in full-time and private sector jobs. “It was the nightmare before Christmas for many Canadians,” he writes.

The bleak numbers caught many by surprise. Most economists were expecting a slight gain in employment; they weren’t the only ones left scratching their heads. A steady increase in the number of job postings in recent months had Workopolis, Canada’s largest job portal, forecasting a strong end to the labour market in 2013.

“I was a little surprised and disappointed,” says Kelly Dixon, president of Workopolis. “This is the first time we’ve been off on our forecast.” Still, given the mix of jobs and the messages Workopolis is hearing from employers Dixon says she every reason to think we’ll get some positive news in the next jobs report.

Ontario bore the brunt

Ontario will be the province to watch. The province took the brunt of the job losses in December, shedding roughly 39,000 positions. The losses were so significant it pushing unemployment rate up to 7.9% in December, a jump of 0.7 percentage points.

While Ontario was highlighted in the latest jobs report, Dixon says it just accentuates an imbalance she’s seen all year in the year in the labour market. “Ontario is three-and-a-half times the larger than Alberta, yet Alberta has almost two times the job growth,” she says.


Go West

The biggest gains in the job demand continue to come from the West, which is enjoying a 40% increase in job postings over the same period a year ago. Although the Alberta has the most job openings in the west, the fastest the growth in the job market in that region is actually in British Columbia. Job postings in B.C. are up 64% over the same period last year with growth in almost every job category.


Skilled trades continue to be in strong demand with one in five job openings in Canada fell into this category in December. If you’re looking for this type of work Alberta and Saskatchewan are a safe bet. A quarter of all jobs openings in these two provinces are looking for people who the trades or as equipment operators.

The year will go down as a lacklustre job market. Caanda recorded its worst net job tally since the 2009 recession, Rangasamy says, adding just 102,000 jobs—or an average of 8,500 a month—with 70% of those jobs in Alberta.

Workopolis, meanwhile, saw a 17% change in the total number of job postings over all of 2012.


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