Unemployment rate falls to 7.1 per cent in August, Statistics Canada reports

More people working part-time helped Canada’s economy grind out 59,000 jobs in August, Statistics Canada reported Friday, about triple what most economists had expected.

The consensus had called for the economy to have created about 20,000 jobs in August.

The better-than-expected gains offset a small uptick in workforce participation, bringing the national jobless rate to 7.1 per cent in August from 7.2 per cent the previous month.

But the underlying trends troubled economists.

“After two straight months of disappointing Canadian job numbers, we finally got a positive showing. However, the devil is always in the details and this month’s release is no exception,” Toronto-Dominion Bank (TSX:TD) senior economist Sonya Gulati wrote in an investors’ note.

“Most of the new jobs were part-time and were held among older workers. The gains were concentrated to just two provinces. The six-month average of job creation sits at just 12,000. Wage inflation has slowed noticeably since the beginning of the year.

“Our take-away from all this — there is little cause to get too excited.”

Of the 59,000 jobs created in August, 42,000 were part-time and 17,000 were full-time. The bulk of those jobs went to older workers, with little change for people under the age of 55.

“Looking at the detail, a mixed picture emerges — although a substantial share of jobs created were in the private sector, roughly 42,000 of the new positions were in part-time work,” CIBC World Markets (TSX:CM) economist Emanuella Enenajor said in note to investors.

Total hours worked rose slightly, Statistics Canada said, while the growth in average hourly earnings slowed.

“The year-over-year change in average hourly wages slowed to 1.5 per cent. This represents the weakest pace of wage inflation since late-2011,” Gulati said.

Two provinces — Ontario and Alberta — accounted for nearly three-quarters of the jobs created in August. Quebec and Manitoba were two of the provinces that posted small declines.

Still, the loonie surged after the jobs report beat expectations. By mid-morning, the Canadian dollar had jumped 0.98 of a cent to 96.16 cents US.
Unions also voiced their concerns about the August job numbers.

“Job growth has also been ‘part-time’ in the sense that only a few months this year have seen meaningful employment gains,” United Steelworkers economist Erin Weir said in a release.

“Over the past six months, employers have added an average of only 12,000 jobs per month — not nearly enough to keep pace with the growth of Canada’s working-age population, let alone reduce unemployment.”