Statscan’s annual summary of employment across the country did little to cheer anyone up Wednesday – least of all Abbotsford and Mission residents hoping to lose the Cities’ reputation for having the highest unemployment rate in Western Canada.
While the latest figures show the area still holds that dubious honour, Abbotsford has been trying hard to revamp its planning process, its economic development process and it outlook on attracting business since the new mayor and council were sworn in in December.
A full frontal attack on the homeless crisis which has hurt the City appears to going on behind the scenes which may help the City lose some of the stigma it has shouldered for the manner in which it treats marginalized people.
Just like the national picture, unemployment spiked locally in December and showed a steady decline in the particpation rate (which was already low).
The bleak local employment scene is complicated by the fact that most of jobs available are low-paying, minimum wage jobs. While the City of Abbotsford has been hoping to attract businesses which provide better jobs, it has generally only managed to attract more service and warehousing jobs with tax breaks and other enticements.
The new City Council in Abbotsford was elected largely on a platform of making the economic development process work better in order to attract investment to the community which produces higher quality jobs.
Figures for January will be availble next week.
The National Picture
Employment gains in 2014 amounted to 121,000 or 0.7%, with the bulk of the growth in September and October. In the 12 months to December, the unemployment rate declined 0.5 percentage points to 6.7%.
Following the release of population estimates based on the most recent Census of Population, a standard revision is applied to the Labour Force Survey estimates. This review is based on these revised estimates released today, which are different from those published on January 9 (see note to readers).
The employment growth rate of 0.7% observed in 2014 was the same as that of 2013, and below the rate of 1.8% recorded in 2012.
Compared with December 2013, full-time employment increased by 158,000 or 1.1%, while part-time employment was little changed. The total number of hours worked increased by 0.6% over the period.
Employment growth in the year was concentrated among men aged 25 and older.
Provincially, employment grew in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario in 2014. At the same time, employment declined in Newfoundland and Labrador as well as in New Brunswick.
In the 12 months to December, employment increased in health care and social assistance, construction, and educational services, while it declined in ‘other services.’
There were more private sector employees (+88,000 or +0.8%) compared with December 2013. The number of public sector employees and self-employed was little changed.
Adjusted to the concepts used in the United States, the unemployment rate in Canada was 5.7% in December, while the US rate was 5.6%.
Participation rate trended down
The population aged 15 and older grew by 1.1% in 2014, a faster pace than employment. As a result, the employment rate declined 0.2 percentage points to 61.3%.
The labour market participation rate trended downward throughout 2014, falling 0.6 percentage points to 65.7% in December 2014—the lowest since 2000.
The downward trend in labour force participation was partly due to population ageing. There was an increase in the share of Canadians aged 55 and older, who are less likely to participate in the labour market. Furthermore, the participation rate among people aged 55 and older declined 0.9 percentage points over the 12 months. At the same time, the rate for women aged 25 to 54 declined 0.8 percentage points, also contributing to the downward trend.
The unemployment rate was 6.7% in December, down 0.5 percentage points compared with December 2013. The unemployment rate edged downward in the fall of 2014, hitting a five-year low of 6.6% in October.
Employment gains for men aged 25 and older
From December 2013 to December 2014, employment among men aged 25 to 54 increased by 75,000 (+1.2%), mostly in full-time work. Their unemployment rate fell 0.9 percentage points to 5.6%, the lowest rate for this group since October 2008.
In December 2014, employment was little changed for women aged 25 to 54 compared with 12 months earlier. Their unemployment rate declined 0.4 percentage points to 5.3%, the result of fewer women in this age group looking for work.
Among men aged 55 and older, employment grew by 44,000 (+2.3%) in the 12 months to December, pushing their unemployment rate down 0.8 percentage points to 5.8%. For their female counterparts, employment was little changed and their unemployment rate in December was 5.1%.
In the 12 months to December, youth employment edged up by 26,000 (+1.0%), all among women. At the same time, the youth population declined 39,000 (-0.9%). As a result, the youth participation rate increased 1.0 percentage point to 64.6% over the period. The unemployment rate for this age group was 13.5% in December.
Fastest employment growth in the Western provinces
Employment in Alberta trended upward throughout 2014, increasing 2.8% (+63,000) compared with December 2013, the fastest growth rate of all the provinces. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.7%, the second-lowest among the provinces.
Manitoba and Saskatchewan also had year-over-year employment growth above the national average, at 2.3% and 1.4% respectively. The unemployment rate in Saskatchewan was 3.7%, the lowest among the provinces. In Manitoba, the unemployment rate was 5.4% in December.
Employment in Ontario increased 0.6% (+38,000) in the 12 months to December. The unemployment rate in the province trended downward in 2014, reaching 7.0% in December 2014.
In British Columbia, employment was little changed compared with December 2013. However, the unemployment rate in the province declined 1.4 percentage points to 5.5% in December, as fewer people searched for work. This was the lowest rate since November 2008.
In the 12 months to December, employment in Quebec was little changed and the unemployment rate was 7.5% in December, also little changed.
There were no employment gains in the Atlantic provinces from December 2013 to December 2014. While employment was little changed in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, it declined by 2.5% in Newfoundland and Labrador and 1.6% in New Brunswick.
Nova Scotia was the lone Atlantic province with a notable change in its unemployment rate, down 0.9 percentage points to 8.4%, as fewer people searched for work.
Largest employment gains in health care and social assistance
Employment in health care and social assistance trended upward throughout 2014, increasing by 54,000 (+2.4%).
From December 2013 to December 2014, employment in construction grew by 39,000 (+2.9%), driven by gains in the second half of the year.
Employment in educational services went up by 37,000 (+3.1%) in the 12 months to December.
The lone industry with an employment decline in 2014 was ‘other services,’ down 35,000 (-4.4%) over the 12-month period. The declines were among private household services, such as services provided by nannies and home support workers.
Employment levels for all other industries were relatively unchanged on a year-over-year basis.
Canada–United States comparison
Adjusted to US concepts, the unemployment rate in Canada was 5.7% in December 2014, and the US rate was 5.6%. In the 12 months to December, the unemployment rate in Canada declined by 0.4 percentage points, while the rate in the United States fell by 1.1 percentage points.
In December, the employment rate in Canada, adjusted to US concepts, was 61.9%, compared with 59.2% in the United States. Compared with a year earlier, the employment rate declined by 0.2 percentage points in Canada, while it increased by 0.6 percentage points in the United States.