Despite the gradual recovery of the Canadian economy in the past few quarters, February 2016 saw the loss of thousands of jobs as well as a sharp 52,000 drop in the number of full-time posts, bringing the national unemployment level to 7.3 per cent.
The latest Statistics Canada labour force survey noted that February marked the third straight month of increase in joblessness, defying earlier confident predictions of the rate remaining manageable at or below 7.2 per cent. Among the hardest hit regions were provinces dependent on petroleum, manufacturing, health care, and education.
Alberta’s natural resource industry lost approximately 4,500 jobs, around half of all losses in the sector nationwide. Along with notable declines in the transportation and hospitality segments, the province’s 7.9 per cent unemployment rate has proven to be a drag on Canada’s overall economic recovery.
“Our main source of concern remains Alberta’s labour market. These unemployed workers will continue to have a difficult time finding a new job, given that the province’s economic activities are insufficiently diversified,” Laurentian Bank of Canada assistant chief economist Sébastien Lavoie stated in a research note, as quoted by The Globe and Mail
More provinces have seen similar developments. Ontario lost 11,000 jobs in February, while Saskatchewan and New Brunswick cut down their respective workforces by 7,800 and 5,700 in the same period.
Meanwhile, the British Columbia job market rose by 14,000 full-time positions last month, spurred by a robust real estate sector as well as significant activity in trade and tourism.
“When we look at the economic outlook, B.C. stands pretty clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the country right now,” Bank of Montreal senior economist Robert Kavcic said.
Other observers warned that less jobs—and thus, weaker purchasing power—in most of the country makes the current situation unsustainable in the long term, despite the continuous strength of the best-performing regions.
“No matter how I slice or dice it, the results seem consistent with an economy that lacks traction,” HSBC Bank Canada chief economist David Watt said.