Canada added 64,000 jobs in September, led by seasonal surge in education workers

Canada’s economy added 64,000 new workers as a surge in hiring in Quebec and B.C. was enough to offset a loss of 38,000 jobs in Alberta.

Statistics Canada reported Friday that despite the new jobs, the jobless rate held steady at 5.5 per cent as more people join the work force, too.

Canada’s adult population increased by just over 82,000 people during the month, of which almost 72,000 are considered to be in the labour force — meaning they are of working age, and actively looking for employment.

The job gain was about twice as many as economists were expecting for the month, but most of them — 48,000 — were of the part-time variety.

Tu Nguyen, an economist with accounting and consultancy firm RSM Canada, says the surge in part-time work could be tied to the ongoing influx of immigrants, as “newcomers might not find full-time work right away.”

“To keep the unemployment rate constant, approximately 50,000 additional jobs per month are needed given the immigration-driven population growth,” she said. “September’s numbers are on track to achieve this and are representative of a more balanced job market where employers are able to find talent when needed.”

WATCH | September isn’t the only month this year that the job market blew past expectations:

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Featured VideoThe Canadian job market has once again outperformed expectations, adding jobs for a seventh month in a row and pushing up wages. The economy added 35,000 jobs in March, almost three times more than expected.

The job gains were also concentrated in one sector, education, which added 66,000 jobs in the month where schools are back in session.

Economist Royce Mendes with Desjardins says that apparent hiring binge should be taken with a grain of salt as it “offset an unusual decline [of 44,000 eduction workers] in August, which was tied to the seasonal adjustment process used by Statistics Canada.”

Compared to where things stood in May when the previous school year wound down, the education sector currently has 26,000 more workers than it did then.

September’s hiring surge brings the two-month total to more than 100,000 workers, but Mendes says that headline figure belies some weakness beneath the surface. Despite having more workers, the total number of hours worked was flat during the month which “takes some shine off of the headline,” Mendes said.

“While taken together the past two months have clearly shown significant strength in hiring, the September reading is weaker than the headline suggests.”

The strong jobs number increased the odds of another rate hike at the end of the month, as trading in investments known as swaps that bet on future rate moves imply there’s now almost a 50/50 chance of one. 

Last week, markets were pricing in less than a one in three chance.

Pockets of strength

Economists pointed out some weaknesses beneath the headline of the strong jobs gain, but that’s not to suggest the job market is slumping, either. 

Hourly wages keep inching higher, up to $34.01 an hour for salaried workers. That’s up by $1.63 or five per cent since last year and a faster annual pace than observed in August.

“Even as the job market has cooled, labour demand remains solid, and wage growth remains above inflation,” Nguyen said. “The strikes and labour disputes this year have shown that some workers are still demanding better pay and are getting [it].”

David Zavitz stands in front of a line of Canada Cartage trucks.
David Zavitz is an executive with Canada Cartage, one of the oldest and largest trucking firms in Canada. (Shawn Benjamin/CBC)

While the surge in educational workers might prove to be a blip, there are many sectors of the economy seeing sustained demand for workers. The job market in transportation and warehousing is booming; the sector added 18,000 workers during the month and almost 80,000 over the past year.

Dave Zavitz, the chief administrative officer with Canada Cartage, says he can’t find enough people to keep up with demand.

“There’s a big hole in the truck driving industry right now,” he told CBC News in an interview. “We’re 20,000 jobs short.”

With 4,000 workers, Canada Cartage is one of the oldest and biggest trucking firms in Canada, with more than 100 years in business and a name that harkens back to the age of horses and carts. Zavitz says his biggest problem right now is finding enough new young people to replace the surge of older workers who are retiring.

Nick Blackbird, a trucker with 37 years experience who’s also a trainer and instructor says demand for truckers is far outpacing the supply of them

“I was a Teamster for years and we warned about this in the 80s but no one listened,” he told CBC News in an interview. “There is a shortage, but I would go one step further — there’s a chronic shortage of guys who know what they’re doing.”


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