Canada added 55,000 jobs in December, before Omicron restrictions

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A "Help wanted" sign is seen in the window of a bakery in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (REUTERS)

New data show Canada's job market was beating expectations before the Omicron variant shut down large swathes of the economy.

Statistics Canada says 55,000 jobs were added in December, around twice as many positions economists expected. 

The unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.9 per cent, slightly above its pre-pandemic February 2020 level (5.7%).

But Statistics Canada says the data reflect labour market conditions during the week of December 5 to 11, before stricter public health measures were implemented to tackle Omicron.

Full-time jobs grew by 123,000, mostly among men of core working age, while part-time work fell by 68,000.

Growth centred in public sector employment, while private sector and self-employed workers was little changed. 

Average hourly wages rose by 2.7 per cent year over year.

Total hours worked fell for the first time since June 2021, down 0.3 per cent.

“The decline in hours worked in December is probably a taste of what is to come, as more workers were forced to isolate,” said Stephen Brown, senior Canada economist at Capital Economics.

Brown says he expects to see jobs losses in January.

“While the December LFS was positive, it seems inevitable that employment will decline this month due to the latest restrictions,” said Brown.

“The drop in restaurant visits alone is already consistent with a decline in accommodation & food services employment of 100,000, and it is likely that employment across the other high-contact service sectors will also weaken.”

The U.S. added 199,000 jobs instead of the 450,000 expected, as the unemployment rate fell to 3.9 per cent.

Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.

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