Economy adds 74,100 jobs in September, drops unemployment rate to 6.8 per cent

OTTAWA – The latest Canadian labour report suggests the job market bounced back in a big way last month, generating 74,100 net new positions and knocking the unemployment rate down to its lowest level in nearly six years.

The September gain, which follows a loss of 11,000 jobs in August, includes the creation of 69,300 full-time positions, according to the monthly Statistics Canada employment survey released Friday.

The promising job data came out the same day the Bank of Canada published its own survey results that found Canadian businesses expected to hire more workers and boost equipment investments during the coming year.

The hiring push already appears headed in the right direction, one bank economist said Friday.

“Overall, hiring in the third quarter was actually pretty strong, it was one of the strongest quarters we’ve seen in a couple of years,” said Leslie Preston of TD Economics.

“So, we’re encouraged by that. Momentum, after a year of flat hiring, is starting to build in Canada’s job market.”

Statistics Canada said the unemployment rate for September fell by 0.2 percentage points to 6.8 per cent — its lowest since December 2008. The agency said the last time the economy added such a large number of jobs was May 2013 when it created 89,500 positions, the majority of which were full time.

Private-sector jobs saw the biggest rebound, according to the data. After showing a loss of 112,000 private-sector jobs in August, the Canadian economy added 123,600 last month.

Economists had expected the economy to create 20,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate to hold steady at seven per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

But several experts warned Friday that September’s numbers alone should be read with caution.

The volatility of Canada’s job market could mean encouraging figures today could vanish tomorrow, Preston said.

Looking at the previous six surveys, StatCan showed the economy shedding 11,000 net jobs in August, creating 42,000 in July, losing 9,400 in June, adding 25,800 in May, dropping 28,900 in April and producing 42,900 in March.

“The worry, of course, is that given the seesaw pattern in employment over the past year, that these gains could be erased next month given the recent trends in the survey,” she said.

A strategist with Desjardins Capital Markets said the StatCan job figures have seemed “very erratic” since the agency was forced to issue a correction on its labour survey in August.

A week after reporting Canada had gained only 200 jobs, StatCan revised its total to say that, in fact, 42,000 positions had been created.

“Unfortunately, that’s the broad impression that I get of it and I try to look at it more from a long-term perspective,” said Jimmy Jean, who prefers to follow the six-month job-creation average.

Looking at the past six months, Jean said Canada’s market appears to be picking up.

Later Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged the volatility of the monthly survey results, but he called September’s tally “extremely positive.”

“What they show once again, over a long period of time now, has been the very positive job-creation record of the country coming out of the recession,” Harper said in Winnipeg.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver said the government had been waiting to see a jump in job numbers because other parts of the economy were starting to grow.

“It seemed to us that there was a little bit of lag and we were waiting to see some confirmation of our views,” Oliver told reporters in Washington, where he also warned against relying on just one month’s worth of figures.

“It’s obviously a positive sign, but let’s say we’re cautiously optimistic.”

The StatCan report says the bulk of the jobs were created in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador, while the other provinces saw only small changes. Ontario added the most jobs with 24,700 new positions, dropping its unemployment rate down by three-tenths of a percentage point to 7.1 per cent.

New Brunswick was the only province that saw its unemployment rate increase last month – rising 0.9 percentage points to 9.6 per cent.

The report found that more people were employed in food services and accommodation, health care and social assistance, construction, natural resources, finance, insurance, real estate and leasing.

On the other hand, the agency said the economy lost jobs last month in educational services.

The survey found young Canadians, aged 15 to 24, held 43,000 more jobs in September, but the youth unemployment rate still increased by 0.1 percentage points to 13.5 per cent as more young people looked for work.

A Bank of Canada survey released Friday also offered some optimism for the labour market.

It found Canadian firms, particularly exporters, had a brighter outlook thanks to a “modestly firmer demand.”

“Some indicate that strengthening U.S. demand has already had an impact on their sales,” said the Bank of Canada’s autumn Business Outlook Survey.

The report also suggested businesses across the country, and in all sectors, expected to hire more workers over the coming year. The survey found 54 per cent of companies expected their level of employment to be higher over the next year compared to the last 12 months.

The study also found that businesses intended to increase their investments on machinery and equipment over the next year.

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