Northern Exposure

Jobless Rate Rises in Canada, Too

by Karen Sargeant

The United States is not the only country being hit by increasing unemployment rates — Canada is being hit, too. Although not as high as unemployment figures in the US, Canadian figures put unemployment at 6.6%. So where is Canada being hit the most? The following statistics from the Labour Force Survey show where.

  • A net 34,000 jobs were lost in December, the result of a large drop in full-time work. A gain of 36,000 part-time jobs offset the loss of 71,000 full-time jobs. Understandably, most of the losses were in the private sector.  In fact, the public sector gained jobs.
  • December’s job losses arose largely from a drop in construction. That industry experienced one of the largest monthly losses in over 30 years — 44,000 jobs lost in December. Given that housing starts in November were at their lowest level in seven years, this is not surprising.
  • Other industries hit hard were: business, culture, recreational services, agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas, trade, and manufacturing.
  • Alberta was the hardest hit province, accounting for 16,000 of the lost jobs. This is particularly surprising given that only a year ago employers were giving huge signing bonuses just to get employees to come work for them. But it’s not surprising given the decline in oil and gas.
  • Second behind Alberta in December was Quebec. But year over year, unemployment in Quebec was unchanged.
  • Young people aged 15 to 24 and men aged 25 to 54 were the hardest hit by the declines in December.
  • Those over 55 actually saw an employment increase. Perhaps these older workers are prepared to accept flexible work schedules and fewer benefits. But despite the employment increase, unemployment rose for these older workers, the result of an increase in the number of people over 55 looking for work.

Although the recession has been felt in the United States for several months, the sense is that it is just beginning to be felt in Canada. With the exception of the financial services industry that underwent significant cuts in the fall, companies are really only now beginning to cut jobs. Plants and offices are being closed, sales forces are being cut, and clerical functions eliminated. So we are likely to see job losses continue to rise throughout 2009 and the unemployment rate increase.