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Canada adds 337,000 jobs in February, unemployment falls below pre-pandemic levels


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Statistics Canada says the economy added 337,000 jobs in February, more than offsetting the loss of 200,000 jobs in January as the unemployment rate fell below pre-pandemic levels.

The unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 per cent in February compared with 6.5 per cent in the first month of the year.

That is the lowest it’s been since it was 5.7 per cent in February 2020 just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate would have been 7.4 per cent last month had it included in calculations people who wanted a job but did not look for one.

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The majority of the decline in the ranks of Canada’s unemployed came from people called back to work in February after a temporary layoff one month earlier as provinces tightened restriction to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

Eight provinces saw job increases as restrictions eased, although Alberta and New Brunswick stayed flat.

Gains in February were notable in sectors hardest hit by public health restrictions, including accommodation and food services that was up by 114,000 jobs.

Statistics Canada also says the proportion of the working age population with a job rose in February to 61.8 per cent, marking the first time that rate returned to its pre-pandemic levels.

Overall, the agency says that the labour force in February was 1.9 per cent, or 369,100 jobs, above levels recorded in February 2020.

The February jobs report suggests the labour market is at, or very close to, full employment, says Royce Mendes, head of macro strategy at Desjardins.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce warns that is going to make it difficult to fill the nearly one million job vacancies across the country.

Leah Nord, the chamber’s senior director of workforce strategies, says the general policy response from governments to acute labour shortages has been underwhelming.

By the numbers

A quick look at Canada’s February employment (numbers from the previous month in brackets):

Unemployment rate: 5.5 per cent (6.5)

Employment rate: 61.8 per cent (60.8)

Participation rate: 65.4 per cent (65.0)

Number unemployed: 1,135,500 (1,341,800)

Number working: 19,512,700 (19,176,100)

Youth (15-24 years) unemployment rate: 10.9 per cent (13.6)

Men (25 plus) unemployment rate: 4.7 per cent (5.2)

Women (25 plus) unemployment rate: 4.5 per cent (5.6)

Provincial breakdown

Canada’s national unemployment rate was 5.5 per cent in February. Here are the jobless rates last month by province (numbers from the previous month in brackets):

  • Newfoundland and Labrador 12.3 per cent (12.8)
  • Prince Edward Island 9.0 per cent (9.6)
  • Nova Scotia 6.6 per cent (7.0)
  • New Brunswick 7.9 per cent (8.5)
  • Quebec 4.5 per cent (5.4)
  • Ontario 5.5 per cent (7.3)
  • Manitoba 4.8 per cent (5.1)
  • Saskatchewan 4.7 per cent (5.5)
  • Alberta 6.8 per cent (7.2)
  • British Columbia 4.9 per cent (5.1)

Unemployment rate by city

The national unemployment rate was 5.5 per cent in February. Statistics Canada also released seasonally adjusted, three-month moving average unemployment rates for major cities. It cautions, however, that the figures may fluctuate widely because they are based on small statistical samples. Here are the jobless rates last month by city (numbers from the previous month in brackets):

  • St. John’s, N.L. 7.3 per cent (7.2)
  • Halifax 5.7 per cent (5.9)
  • Moncton, N.B. 6.1 per cent (6.4)
  • Saint John, N.B. 7.3 per cent (7.7)
  • Saguenay, Que. 4.4 per cent (3.9)
  • Quebec City 2.8 per cent (3.0)
  • Sherbrooke, Que. 2.8 per cent (2.8)
  • Trois-Rivieres, Que. 5.0 per cent (5.1)
  • Montreal 5.2 per cent (5.2)
  • Gatineau, Que. 4.6 per cent (5.0)
  • Ottawa 5.0 per cent (4.7)
  • Kingston, Ont. 5.7 per cent (5.9)
  • Peterborough, Ont. 5.9 per cent (8.7)
  • Oshawa, Ont. 6.4 per cent (6.6)
  • Toronto 7.4 per cent (7.7)
  • Hamilton, Ont. 5.2 per cent (5.5)
  • St. Catharines-Niagara, Ont. 6.3 per cent (7.8)
  • Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo, Ont. 5.2 per cent (5.2)
  • Brantford, Ont. 5.5 per cent (6.5)
  • Guelph, Ont. 4.3 per cent (4.1)
  • London, Ont. 5.8 per cent (6.3)
  • Windsor, Ont. 8.3 per cent (8.2)
  • Barrie, Ont. 7.7 per cent (6.6)
  • Greater Sudbury, Ont. 4.3 per cent (5.3)
  • Thunder Bay, Ont. 5.9 per cent (6.6)
  • Winnipeg 4.9 per cent (5.0)
  • Regina 5.4 per cent (5.3)
  • Saskatoon 4.8 per cent (5.2)
  • Calgary 8.0 per cent (8.5)
  • Edmonton 6.9 per cent (6.6)
  • Kelowna, B.C. 7.1 per cent (7.2)
  • Abbotsford-Mission, B.C. 4.2 per cent (5.4)
  • Vancouver 5.4 per cent (5.7)
  • Victoria 4.2 per cent (3.9)

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