OTTAWA – Canada’s economy finally came out of hibernation last month, pumping out a whopping 95,000 new jobs — the vast majority full-time — in the biggest month of employment growth in more than a decade.
The massive gain was the first major improvement of 2013 and many times greater than economists had expected, dropping the unemployment rate one-tenth of a point to 7.1 per cent.
The impact on the unemployment rate would have been greater but for an almost as large increase in the number of Canadians looking for work.
But there was little to quibble about in the uniformly strong May report, where Statistics Canada saw positives across the board with few exceptions.
All the new jobs came in the private sector and in the employee class — rather than the less desirable self-employment category — and 76,700 of them were full-time.
The Canadian dollar gained ground after the report, trading at 97.89 cents US — up about four-tenths of a cent from Thursday’s close and up more than a cent over two days.
Canada’s labour market had been seen as struggling in 2013, with the first four months producing a net loss of 13,000 jobs, attributed to the poor economic performance during the second half of last year.
But with May’s numbers added in, the year now appears more in line with an economy that is growing at a moderate if not spectacular pace. Over the past 12 months, Canada has produced job gains of about 250,000 and seen hours worked rise by 1.1 per cent.
Even students and other young people had an easier time finding employment in May, with about 54,000 of the new workers in the 15 to 24 age group joining the labour force. That pushed the youth unemployment rate to 13.6 per cent, almost a full point lower than the previous month.
“The May survey results (also) provide the first indicators of the summer job market, especially for students aged 20 to 24,” the agency noted, although more data is needed to determine if this will be a good summer for students.
Regionally, employment rose in most provinces with Ontario realizing the lion’s share of the increases, adding 50,600 workers. Employment rose by 18,600 in Alberta and 20,100 in Quebec.
By industry, there was a big surge in construction jobs in May, rising by about 43,000, and retail and wholesale trade added about 27,000 workers. Employment in so-called other services, such as repair and maintenance, increased by 22,000, and there was a 21,000 gain in people working in business, building and other support services.
However, the battered manufacturing sector did not join in the bounty. The agency said there were 14,200 fewer factory workers in May than there had been in April, bringing the total losses in the sector in the past year to almost 100,000.