Canada's unemployment rate dipped to 5.3% in March, bringing it to the lowest rate ever on record since data first became available in 1976.
The previous record, reach in May 2019, was 5.4%. The adjusted unemployment rate, which includes individuals who wanted a job but were not looking for one, also hit an important milestone, falling below its pre-pandemic rate for the first time, hitting 7.2%.
Unemployment has consistently dropped over the past few months -- something that's also been seen in other countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia. In Canada, these gains can be partly attributed to the fact that public health restrictions have eased in many provinces, with Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, and Quebec all lifting capacity limits and proof-of-vaccination requirements.
Employment rose by a staggering 73,000, with gains driven largely by women aged 55 and older and men aged 25 to 54, according to Statistics Canada. Increases were seen across both the goods and services sectors, as well as across private sector employees and the self-employed, with growth concentrated in Ontario and Quebec. Statistics Canada notes, however, that as employment continues to grow, there is simultaneously a downward pressure on the supply of labour, with employment gains since September having outpaced growth in the size of the population aged 15 and older.
Canadians worked more hours in March, with the total number of hours rising 1.3%. As for how much workers are being paid, the average hourly wage is up just 3.4% on a year-over-year basis. This has not kept up with the Consumer Price Index, which was up 5.7% annually. The 3.4% growth is also lower than the average wage growth recorded during the second half of 2019 (4.3%).
Hourly wages in the scientific and technical services industry lead the push in higher pay, with a 7.5% increase year-over-year. Provincially, Prince Edward Island saw the largest increase in average hourly wages, jumping 8.4%. It was followed by New Brunswick at 7.6% and Quebec at 5.5%. Manitoba saw the lowest growth in the country, with hourly wages going up just 0.8%. Alberta saw the second lowest with a 1.4% jump.
"Changes in average wages in a province or region can be the result of many factors, including regional variations in the balance between labour supply and demand, as well as changes over time in the composition of employment by industry in a region," Statistics Canada says. "In Alberta, for example, wage gains in several industries, including natural resources and retail trade, were partially offset by declines in others, such as educational services."
As more employees make their way back to the office, the proportion of workers who reported exclusively working from home continued to decline in March, falling 1.8% to 20.7%. But the number of workers who reported a hybrid work arrangement continued to grow, seeing a 1.4% bump from February's numbers.
With continued robust growth across the employment sector, BMO's Chief Economist and Managing Director Douglas Porter says that last month's numbers make a higher rate from the Bank of Canada even more likely.
"While there were no big surprises in the latest jobs data, the key takeaway is just how tight the job market now is, and that the employment recovery is now complete—arguably more than complete," Porter wrote in a release. "We would expect job tallies to return to more 'normal' figures in the months ahead (i.e., about 25-30,000 gains per month). For policymakers, both monetary and fiscal, the message is crystal clear—we are long past the need for stimulative policies, and in fact in need of notably tighter policies. This robust report just reinforces the likelihood of the Bank of Canada raising rates by 50 bps at next week's decision."