A representative speaks to a job seeker during the Vancouver Job Fair, presented by Work BC and operated by YWCA Metro Vancouver, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photographer: James MacDonald/Bloomberg)

Canada Ends Decent Year for Jobs With December Slowdown

(Bloomberg) -- Canada employers capped another decent year of hiring by taking a breather in December.

Employment eked out a small gain of 9,300 for the month, after a record gain of 94,100 in November. But the increase last month was driven by part-timers and self-employed workers, Statistics Canada said Friday in Ottawa. Full-time employment fell in December for the first time in three months, and wages remain sluggish.

For all of 2018, the economy added 163,300 jobs -- all of them full-time -- for a 0.9 percent gain that was a marked slowdown from 2017. But the nation’s aging workforce may not be able to deliver much stronger gains with the unemployment rate already the lowest in four decades.

“Overall, what we’re left with is an economy that remains very close to full employment, that’s now grinding out job gains roughly in line with labor force growth, and yet wage gains are just managing to roughly track underlying inflation,” Doug Porter, chief economist at Bank of Montreal, said in a note to investors.

Employment increased by an out-sized 427,300 in 2017 and has averaged annual gains of 225,000 workers since 2010.

Even with the slowdown in job gains, the unemployment rate held at 5.6 percent in December. Labor force participation last year fell to its lowest in two decades.

Still, the labor market ended 2018 stronger than when the year began. The monster November increase meant the final three months of 2018 -- when 114,500 jobs were created -- was one of the biggest quarterly gains since the 2008-2009 recession.

Canada Ends Decent Year for Jobs With December Slowdown

The biggest negative continues to be wages, with the labor force survey showing annual gains hovering at a sluggish 2 percent in December. Wage gains for permanent workers were just 1.5 percent last month.

Another weak point was hours worked, which rose just 0.9 percent in December from a year earlier. That’s down from a 2.1 percent pace a month earlier.

The weakness in December was mostly driven by service-producing sectors that had been leading gains all year. Manufacturing led gains last month, with a 23,900 employment gain.

There is also little evidence that turmoil in the oil sector is having any widespread impact on the national labor market, even though there are some initial signs of some strains in Alberta. The province lost 36,200 full-time jobs last month, and saw its jobless rate inch higher to 6.4 percent in December, from 6.3 percent in November.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg predicted the national unemployment rate would rise to 5.7 percent in December and a gain of 10,000 jobs.

(An earlier version of the story was corrected to show 427,300 gain was in 2017.)

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