The Canadian economy added 154,000 new jobs last month, exceeding previous expectations and enough to move the unemployment rate to just 6 percent.
Statistics Canada reported on Friday that the unemployment rate fell by 0.7 percentage points, to six percent. This is the lowest unemployment rate since the pandemic began. Prior to COVID-19, in February 2020, the unemployment rate in Canada was 5.7 percent. It topped out at 13.7 percent in May of that year, before dropping steadily.
The data agency calculates that more than 19.3 million people in Canada worked last month. That’s 183,000 more than it was before one pandemic.
As wages go up
There was good news on the wage front, too, with the data agency estimating that wages during November 2021 were 7.7 percent higher than they were in the same month two years ago, before the pandemic. That’s an extra $2.18 an hour, on average, since the same period two years ago.
Workers in general move up the wage ladder. The number of people earning less than $12 an hour has fallen dramatically over the past two years, from more than a quarter of a million people before that to just 165,000 people today. There are also fewer people earning between $12 and $20 an hour, down from 5.1 million workers to just 4.4 million now.
These salary ranges are shrinking as people move up the wage ladder. Those who make between $20 and $30 an hour have grown from 4.9 million before then to 5.2 million now, and the ranks of those at the top of the band have swelled to more than 6.8 million. That’s a million more than it was before.
While higher wages are good for workers, they come with a double-edged sword because the cost of living is rising rapidly as well. These larger salaries are tempered by the fact that Statistics Canada data shows prices are 5.3 percent higher than they were two years ago.
People are heading into the workforce in droves because they need the money to pay the higher cost of everything, said Tanya Jolison, chief revenue officer at HR consultancy LHH.
“We are still witnessing a huge war for talent,” she said in an interview. “We find that employers have to do really unexpected things to attract and retain the talent they have.”
It is the companies that win that war that are able to attract the best workers by offering flexible work requirements and good benefits and other perks, she said.
But cold and hard criticism also tempts people. Statistics Canada data says average wage earnings are increasing at a faster rate for new hires than for existing workers.
“Over the course of the upcoming fiscal year, bonuses and other perks will likely also flow in as a way to attract new talent and retain existing employees,” Jolison said.
Decreased long-term unemployment
Deep in the pandemic, policy makers have warned of a growing group of “long-term unemployed” people, defined by Statistics Canada as people who have lost a job and have not found a new one for at least 27 weeks, which is just over half a year.
There were about 185,000 Canadians in this category before the pandemic, about 15 percent of everyone without a job.
That number rose to 510,000 people by April of this year, or nearly a third of those who were unemployed.
The number has fallen steadily since then, but recorded the largest drop since the pandemic began in November, dropping by 62 thousand people to 305 thousand people.
A new beginning for many
Erica Albert is one of the many Canadians who managed to find a job last month, after a long time on the sidelines.
She lost her finance job in December of 2020 and took an extended break to “re-evaluate what I want to do at this point in my career”.
After spending most of the year trying to find the perfect job, she said she finally found it this month, when she was hired as an office manager at Guelph, Ont., an engineering firm specializing in renewable energy.
“I have learned a lot of things in my career so far [and] I really enjoy doing something that actually includes a little bit of everything I’ve learned,” she said in an interview.
“I am relaxed now and excited to be part of the team and work towards making the world a better place.”
Albert is not the only one feeling this optimism.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, there is a spike in labor demand, and a new feeling among workers that they can be more picky than they might otherwise be, says economist Tu Nguyen at consultancy RSM Canada.
“The rising tide of economic recovery is finally lifting everyone up across demographic groups, across industries, across company sizes and across counties,” she said in an interview. “The next few months will be very competitive.”