OTTAWA — Canada’s economy delivered its strongest six-month stretch of job creation to start a year since 2002, even though June’s employment numbers came in flat.
Over the first half of the year, the country added 248,000 new positions, almost all of which were full time, new Statistics Canada data showed Friday.
The latest evidence of the job market’s resilience — despite an economic slowdown over the first few months of 2019 — arrived as the Bank of Canada prepares for its interest-rate announcement next Wednesday.
Governor Stephen Poloz is widely expected to hold the trend-setting rate steady next week — and many predict the bank to remain on hold for the rest of the year.
Overall, the job report said the economy shed 2,200 net positions in June and the unemployment rate edged up to 5.5 per cent, compared with the May reading of 5.4 per cent, which was its lowest mark since the government started collecting comparable data in 1976.
“When we take a look at the trend over the past year, job growth still looks to be chugging along at a pace that’s even stronger than population growth,” said Brendon Bernard, an economist for job-search website Indeed Canada.
The report Friday also showed wages climbed to their highest level in over a year. The Bank of Canada monitors several wage-growth indicators ahead of its rate decisions.
Year-over-year average hourly wage growth for all employees was 3.8 per cent in June, its strongest month since May 2018 and second-best reading in a decade. It has been rising in recent months — after hitting 2.8 per cent in May and 2.5 per cent in April.
Last month, Quebec saw wage growth reach five per cent for its highest level since April 2009.
Matthew Stewart, director of national forecast for the Conference Board of Canada, said Friday that job gains have “remained exceptionally strong” even though economic growth had a weak start to the year.
“The best news came from the wage front,” Stewart said in a statement.
“Very tight labour markets are clearly having an impact on wages, which posted a solid real increase. This increase should allow households to continue increase spending despite their very high levels of household debt and ongoing uncertainty.”
Matthieu Arseneau, deputy chief economist for the National Bank of Canada, wrote in a report to clients Friday that the number of hours worked was up “a whopping” 3.4 per cent year-over-year — for its fastest pace in seven quarters.
“If hours worked are any guide, the economic soft patch came to an end in (the second quarter),” Arseneau wrote.
Compared with a year earlier, Statistics Canada said employment was up 421,100 or 2.3 per cent. Of those new positions, 314,500 of them were full time.
Last month, the economy added about 24,000 full-time jobs and lost about 26,000 part-time positions, Statistics Canada said.
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.
Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press