Unemployment reaches 40-year low with 94,100 new jobs added in November

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A blast of 94,100 new jobs last month has knocked the country’s unemployment rate down to 5.6 per cent — its lowest level since Statistics Canada started measuring comparable data more than 40 years ago.

The overall number marked the labour force survey’s largest monthly increase since March 2012, when there was a gain of 94,000 jobs, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The November employment surge was fuelled by the addition of 89,900 full-time positions. For employee work, the private sector added 78,600 positions in November, while the public sector gained 8,300 jobs.

Last month’s increase pushed the jobless rate down from October’s reading of 5.8 per cent, which had been the previous low mark since comparable data first became available in 1976. The old statistical approach — prior to 1976 — registered an unemployment rate reading of 5.4 per cent in 1974.

But Friday’s report also contained disappointing details.

Weak wage growth

Year-over-year average hourly wage growth for permanent employees continued its decline in November to 1.46 per cent — to deliver its weakest reading since July 2017.

Experts have been expecting wage growth to rise thanks to the tightened labour market, but it has dropped every month since its May peak of 3.9 per cent. It now sits well below inflation.

The Bank of Canada keeps a close watch on wages ahead of its interest-rate decisions. On Wednesday, the central bank held its benchmark rate at 1.75 per cent. But in explaining its decision, it highlighted other economic negatives, such as weaker-than-expected business investment and the sharp drop in oil prices.

Statistics Canada’s report Friday also said that, compared to 12 months earlier, employment was up 1.2 per cent following a net increase of 218,800 jobs. The addition of 227,400 full-time positions offset a small decrease in part-time work.

The November jobs report showed the goods-producing sector added 26,900 jobs, following a notable gain of 14,800 construction positions. The services sector generated 67,200 jobs last month with help from the addition of 26,000 positions in professional, scientific and technical services.

By region, employment rose in six provinces and was led by gains in Quebec and Alberta.

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Premier unveils ‘open for business’ signs as Ontario’s unemployment rate remains low

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As Premier Doug Ford unveiled the first of his “open for business” border-crossing signs in Sarnia, Statistics Canada revealed Ontario unemployment continues to hover near its lowest rate in a generation.

“Doesn’t that sign look beautiful?” Ford said Friday of the “Welcome to Ontario: Open For Business” signage near the Blue Water Bridge to Michigan.

Signs like this will be going up along Ontario’s border with the United States. The first one went up in Sarnia on Nov. 2, 2018.
Signs like this will be going up along Ontario’s border with the United States. The first one went up in Sarnia on Nov. 2, 2018.  (Julie Jocsak / The St. Catharines Standard)

“You’ve been hearing for months that we’re going to put signs right across every single border in Ontario to tell the world, especially our great neighbours to the south, that Ontario is open for business,” said the premier, who was elected in June.

There will eventually be signs placed at all 18 of the province’s land crossings with American states, but Ford’s government is still calculating the price tag for the initiative.

NDP MPP Catherine Fife (Waterloo) said the job numbers underscore the fact that the signs are a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“We’ve seen this government stumbling along,” Fife told reporters at Queen’s Park.

Ford’s announcement came the same morning as Statistics Canada’s monthly jobs survey revealed last month’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 per cent, a decrease of 0.3 percentage points since September.

“While employment was little changed in Ontario, there were fewer people looking for work, lowering the unemployment rate … On a year-over-year basis, employment in the province rose by 83,000 due to more full-time work,” said Statistics Canada.

That’s a 1.2 per cent increase in employment since this time last year.

The premier also touted his repeal of the previous Liberal government’s labour reforms that would have increased the $14-an-hour minimum wage to $15 in January and given employees two paid sick days and other workplace protections.

“That was just hurdle after hurdle for small businesses, medium businesses, large businesses,” said Ford, a wealthy businessman who previously ran his family’s label-printing company.

“We’re getting rid of as many regulations as possible,” he said.

But Fife warned that his cuts will force workers to “make tough choices.”

“Without paid sick days, they’ll have to choose between taking their kid to the doctor when she’s sick, or keeping the day’s pay she needs to care for her family,” she said.

“Ontarians who work hard deserve more respect than that.”

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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