The Canadian construction sector has faced no shortage of headwinds this year, including labour shortages that are on track to worsen as workers rapidly age out of the profession.
But new labour data from Statistics Canada points to some semblance of reprieve. On Friday, the government agency reported that the Canadian economy added 34,000 new construction jobs in August, marking a month-over-month gain of 2.2% — not to mention, the first gain the sector’s seen in months.
By contrast, 45,000 construction jobs were lost in July, which was more than any other sector included in StatCan’s labour survey for the month.
While August’s job bump served to ‘partially offset’ July’s loss, StatCan noted that the industry was “little changed” compared to 12 months earlier.
StatCan also revealed some provincial nuances. Most notably, there were fewer people working in construction in British Columbia in August, with the province seeing both monthly and annual slides of 0.8% and 13.5%, respectively.
BC was something of an outlier. Most provinces, with a handful of exceptions, saw construction sector employment increase by some degree last month. In Ontario, for instance, construction employment rose 1.8% month over month and 2% year over year. In Alberta, the monthly and annual gains came in at 3% and 5.1%.
A Mixed Signal For BoC
Job gains in construction, in combination with a 2.8% gain observed in professional, scientific and technical services, served to offset losses in educational services (-2.9%) and manufacturing (-1.6%) and prop up overall Canadian employment in August, which grew by 40,000 jobs (for a month-over-month rise of 0.2%).
“This increase in employment was outpaced by population growth (+103,000; +0.3%) and the employment rate — the proportion of the population aged 15 and older who are employed — fell 0.1 percentage points to 61.9%,” noted StatCan.
Meanwhile, Canada’s unemployment rate came in at 5.5% (the same level as July) following three consecutive monthly increases in May, June, and July.
Despite Wednesday’s interest rate hold, there are still two more rate decisions to come this year (one on October 25 and another on December 6), and experts have already begun speculating on how this latest job data will play into the Bank of Canada’s next moves.
BMO's Chief Economist Douglas Porter said in a note from this morning that the data is “not strong enough to prompt an immediate rethink on the pause, but also certainly not soft enough to rule out further hikes.”