Labour Force Survey (LFS) update: June 2019


Labour Force Survey (LFS) update: June 2019

National unemployment rates show signs of normalizing; Ontario labour force may be drawing from other regions

The Canadian construction and maintenance labour force continues to grow year over year – but for the first time in 2019, growth in the national labour force is outpacing employment growth. Those numbers are normalizing unemployment rates nationally with a few provincial labour market exceptions.

Statistics Canada reports that the Canadian construction industry added 2,200 jobs (+0.1%) in June, as compared to the same month in 2018. Over the same period, the labour force grew by 8,100 workers (+0.5%), running ahead of employment growth for the first time this year. Those statistics are reflected in normalizing unemployment rates for construction – 4.9% in June 2019 compared to 4.5% in June 2018.

[graph] Construction labour market change, June 2019 (annualized change)

While the national trend speaks to an overall moderation of unemployment rates, individual provinces and regions tell their own stories.

British Columbia’s construction labour markets tightened as the province added 3,900 jobs (+1.6%), but the size of the labour force remained relatively unchanged. That drove unemployment rates to critically low levels at 2.4%.

In Quebec and Prince Edward Island, employment growth was significant at 13,100 and 1,000 jobs, respectively. But, with the labour force growing at a similar pace, unemployment rates remained relatively unchanged.

Saskatchewan and Alberta experienced lower labour demands in June than for the same period last year. In both provinces the labour force declined at a slower pace resulting in higher unemployment rates.

Construction employment also dipped modestly in Ontario (-0.2%), but from very high levels reached in 2018. Those numbers, however, still gave unemployment rates a chance to moderate to 3.9% from the historical low of 2.2% recorded in June 2018.

The Ontario labour force also grew by 8,600 workers over 2018 – a sign that the province is drawing in workers from other regions.

Where are they coming from?

One source of labour might be Newfoundland and Labrador. Employment requirements continue to decline in the province, but so do unemployment rates. Those numbers could indicate a continued flight of workers from the province’s labour force, with Ontario looking like a prime destination.

If gently rising unemployment rates persist, it could help ease labour strains for employers – especially if that moderation is accompanied by increased labour flows across provincial borders.

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[photo] Klayton Goncalves is BuildForce Canada's Senior Economist.