Manitoba sees biggest employment growth in Canada
Manitoba is being hailed as the new rising star on the regional job-creation front after the local economy pumped out nearly 20,000 new jobs over the past year and posted the highest employment growth in the country.
Statistics Canada numbers released Friday show the Manitoba economy churned out 19,200 new jobs from March of last year to March of this year, for a year-over-year growth rate of 3.1 per cent.
That was more than triple the national average of 0.8 per cent, and it was more than a full percentage point higher than any other province.
That kind of head-turning performance didn't go unnoticed.
"First, we must praise the often overlooked, but now rising star on the regional labour-force map -- Manitoba," BMO Capital Markets senior economist Robert Kavcic said in a note to investors.
"Employment growth now leads the country at 3.1 per cent year-over-year (by a wide margin), and the jobless rate (5.4 per cent) has moved a tick below Alberta," Kavcic said. "Both the goods and services sectors are up more than three per cent in the past year."
The Statistics Canada data also show Manitoba and Saskatchewan were the only two provinces to post significant job gains in March. The Manitoba economy generated 6,100 new jobs -- 2,600 full-time and 3,500 part-time positions -- while Saskatchewan added 7,000.
The big gain drove down Manitoba's unemployment rate to the second-lowest level in the country behind Saskatchewan's 4.4 per cent. Alberta is now third at 5.5 per cent.
University of Manitoba economist John McCallum said he can't recall the last time Manitoba created 19,200 new jobs or posted 3.1 per cent employment growth over a 12-month period.
"Nineteen thousand, two hundred -- wow -- that's just a great number. And how often have we talked and Manitoba's (employment growth) was a fraction of the national percentage? This is exceptional."
McCallum said it's also encouraging 16,200 of the new jobs created in the past year and 2,600 of the 6,100 new jobs added in March were full-time positions. That suggests a growing confidence among Manitoba businesses.
"The best job-creation and stimulus program there is is confidence. When you're not so confident, you work your existing staff harder and pay them overtime. But when you start feeling better, you add part-time (workers) and then you add full-time (workers)."
The Statistics Canada data show 14,900 of the new jobs added over the last year were services-sector jobs and 4,300 were in the goods-producing sector.
The latter included 5,600 new construction jobs and 1,400 new manufacturing positions. But those gains were partially offset by job losses in several other industries, including agriculture and utilities.
The services-sector gains included 5,600 new jobs in the health care and social-assistance industry and 3,800 new education jobs.
Winnipeg Construction Association executive vice-president Ron Hambley said 2014 was the 13th straight year of increased construction activity in Manitoba, and industry officials are cautiously optimistic about the prospects for 2015.
"We wouldn't be surprised if things slowed down a bit relative to last year. However, the industry remains busy, and there is work in the queue. So I guess it remains to be seen."
Hambley noted a number of major hydro projects are getting underway, the RBC Convention Centre expansion continues, and work will soon begin on Winnipeg's new south end water-treatment plant.
"That's a massive project," he added.
Canada's economy also posted a surprisingly strong net gain of nearly 29,000 jobs in March, and the national jobless rate held steady at 6.8 per cent. Most economists expected the jobless rate to remain unchanged, but didn't think any new jobs would be created, Thomson Reuters reported.
"The bar was set pretty low for this employment release, and it managed to clear it," BMO chief economist Douglas Porter said in a note to investors.
"While the details were mixed, at best, any gain is better than the alternative, given how the economy struggled out of the gate in 2015," he added. "Overall, the point is that the labour market is grinding out very modest gains amid an economy that is grinding out very modest growth."
Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Markets, said the March job numbers take the pressure off the Bank of Canada to further cut interest rates next week.
Date: April 11, 2015