Canadian employment rose by 337,000 (+1.8%) in February more than reversing a 200,000 decline in January driven by Omicron-related public health measures, according to Statistics Canada. The labour market is increasingly tight, with the Canadian unemployment rate declining to 5.5%, a level lower than prior to the pandemic in February 2020 (5.7%) for the first time. The total hours worked (+3.6%) as well as the employment rate (+1.0%) also rose strongly.
As public health measures were partly lifted by the survey reference week in February, gains were concentrated in the Accommodation and Food Services (+114,000; +12.6%), and Information, Culture and Recreation (+73,000; +9.9%) sectors. Private sector employment rose by 2.8% to 347,000. On a year-over-year basis, wages were up 3.1%. The number of long-term unemployed Canadians fell by 51,000 (-19.4%) in February.
In BC, employment rose more modestly than the rest of Canada (+21,000; 0.8%), but growth is very strong given that the province suffered no employment decline in January. Employment growth in February was concentrated in the Vancouver CMA (+18,000). Seasonally-adjusted employment in BC is not only above pre-pandemic levels, but hit a record high for a 5th consecutive month. The unemployment rate continued declining in BC, reaching 4.9%, the lowest rate since January 2020. Among the provinces, only Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have lower unemployment rates.
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