Posted on November 4, 2022

Shockingly Strong Employment Report In Canada Starts Q4 Off With A Bang

Very Strong Employment Report For October 

Today’s Labour Force Survey for October was surprisingly strong, boosting wage inflation to an eye-popping 5.6% year-over-year pace. While good news for the economy, this is terrible news for the inflation fight–just when the Bank of Canada eased its foot on the brakes. The two-year and five-year Government of Canada bond yields spiked on the news, calling into question the Bank of Canada’s decision last week to trim the rate hike to 50 bps rather than the 75 bps that was expected. While one month’s data is not enough to draw too fine a point, this does call into question the assumption that fourth-quarter growth will be substantially less than 1%. 

Following four months of declines or little change, employment rose by 108,000 (+0.6%) in October. This increase—widespread across industries, including manufacturing, construction, and accommodation and food services—brought employment back to a level on par with the most recent peak observed in May 2022. All of the gain in October was in full-time work, another indicator of economic strength. This was the first gain among private sector employees since March when the Bank of Canada began hiking interest rates.

After declining in September, the unemployment rate remained at 5.2% in October, 0.3 percentage points above the record low of 4.9% observed in June and July. The adjusted unemployment rate—which includes people who wanted a job but did not look for one—was virtually unchanged in October at 7.1%.

In October, the labour force—or the total number of people who are either employed or unemployed—was 110,000 (+0.5%) more significant than in September. The labour force participation rate rose 0.2 percentage points to 64.9% in October but fell 0.5 percentage points short of the recent high of 65.4% in February and March 2022.

Employment rebounded in construction and manufacturing. The number of people working in construction rose by 25,000 (+1.6%) in October, with increases in five provinces, including Quebec (+17,000; +5.9%) and British Columbia (+6,000; +2.5%). Despite this increase, employment in construction was virtually unchanged in October compared with March 2022, consistent with the latest data on gross domestic product showing slowing economic activity in the industry over a similar period.

Employment rose by 24,000 (+1.4%) in manufacturing, mainly offsetting the decrease of 28,000 (-1.6%) recorded in September. Most of the increase was attributable to British Columbia (+12,000; +6.9%) and Nova Scotia (+3,700; +11.6%). On a year-over-year basis, employment in manufacturing was little changed.

The number of people working in accommodation and food services increased by 18,000 (+1.7%) in October, the first increase in the industry since May. According to the latest data from the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey, the industry had a higher job vacancy rate than all other industries in August.

Employment in professional, scientific and technical services rose by 18,000 in October (+1.0%), the third increase in six months. The number of people working in the industry has followed a long-term upward trend since June 2020, and in October was 297,000 (+19.3%) above its pre-pandemic level.

In October, the number of people working in wholesale and retail trade declined by 20,000 (-0.7%). Employment in the industry last increased in May and was little changed on a year-over-year basis in October. According to the latest data on retail trade, while retail sales increased 0.7% to $61.8 billion in August, advance estimates suggest that sales decreased 0.5% in September.

Of paramount importance to the Bank of Canada’s endeavours to wrestle inflation to a 2% pace, average hourly wages last month were 5.6% higher than one year earlier, accelerating from a rate of 5.2% in September. Despite average wages growing by more than 5% on a year-over-year basis in each of the past five months, they have not kept pace with inflation, which was 6.9% in September, contributing to concerns about affordability and the cost of living for many Canadians. 

In separate news, the US employment data for October were also released today, showing stronger-than-expected hiring and wage gains, while the jobless rate ticked up a bit more than expected.

Bottom Line

Today’s labour force data in Canada throws into question the widespread assumption that the Bank of Canada can ease off the brakes very soon. I believe Governor Tiff Macklem will hike rates by another 50 bps in December and continue with 25 bp increases early next year. Today’s employment report raised the odds of the peak in the policy target of 4.5%.