Solid new job growth in Ontario last month wasn’t enough to offset the commodity price slump that continues to take its toll on Alberta, a Statistics Canada report says.
The number of jobs across the country fell by 5,700 in, pushing January’s unemployment rate to 7.2 percent from 7.1 percent, the agency said Friday.
That was despite the gains in Ontario led by the services-producing industries, particularly accommodation and food services, trade, and education.
Year-over year, Ontario has created 100,200 jobs, while they are down 35,000 in Alberta.
Alberta suffered a decline of 21,900 full-time positions, with the bulk of the decrease concentrated in agriculture and manufacturing. The drop was offset by an increase of 11,900 part-time jobs, but Alberta's unemployment rate rose to 7.4 per cent from 7 per cent in December. That is its highest level since February 1996.
It also marked the first time Alberta's unemployment rate was higher than the national rate since December 1988, the report said.
“The decline in employment in January was a poor start to the year and provides more evidence that the economy is struggling to cope with the collapse in oil prices,” said Dave Madani, senior economist at Capital Economics.
The report found a nationwide net increase of 19,700 jobs in the services industry only partially made up for the 25,300 drop in employment in the goods-producing sector. The decline was weighed down by big losses of 13,700 positions in agriculture and 11,000 jobs in manufacturing.
By region, the oil-producing provinces of Alberta and Newfoundland were the hardest hit.
“Plain and simple, Canada’s job market is in bad shape,” said Arlene Kish, senior principal economist, IHS Global Insight, in a research note.
“Expect another year of sluggish growth especially as the overall economy is on a slow-moving track,” she added.
On the flip side, the jobs data showed Ontario was the only province that enjoyed significant growth last month as it added 19,800 net positions, including 16,300 full-time jobs. Compared to a year earlier, Ontario showed a net gain of 100,200 jobs, an increase of 1.5 per cent.
The monthly Stats Can report also showed that self-employed positions fell by 20,200 last month, while the net number of employee jobs increased by 14,500.
Statistics Canada also released the latest figures Friday on international merchandise trade.
It showed that Canada's trade balance for December was negative $585 million, as total exports rose 3.9 per cent compared to November and imports climbed 1.6 per cent. Manufactured exports were up by 5.8 per cent in December.
“Non-energy exports are supposed to be the saviour for the Canadian economy, and December’s data gave hope to the faithful,” CIBC World Markets economist Nick Exarhos said in a research note.
“Increases in other manufactured products like consumer goods, autos and machinery, which are now all up double digits on an annual basis, are encouraging signs that the more competitive Canadian dollar is having an effect,” he said.
At Queen's Park, Finance Minister Charles Sousa said the job numbers show the province is “on the right track” with its unemployment rate unchanged at 6.7 per cent, below the national average of 7.2 per cent, reports The Toronto Star’s Rob Ferguson.