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Where The Jobs Were in Q1 2017

Where The Jobs Were in Q1 2017

By Mark Swartz


There was positive news on the employment front in the first quarter of 2017. A gain of 83,000 jobs was recorded. This is an increase +0.5% over three months.

Back in the final quarter of 2016 there was about the same growth (+91,000 jobs). However this year’s figures are up considerably from the relatively flat first quarter of 2016, in which just +36,000 extra jobs were added.

How have things gone over the past full year? Canada added +276,000 jobs, a boost of +1.5%. All of the gains were in full-time work. Over the same period, total hours worked rose +0.7%. That brought the unemployment rate down by -0.2 percentage points to 6.7%.


Full-Time Versus Part-Time

In what may be a welcome reversal, full-time positions rose by +138,000. At the same time part-time positions showed an overall drop of -56,000. Meanwhile the participation rate – people over age 15 actively in the labour force – stayed steady at 65.9%.


By Age and Sex

Unfortunately for youths 24 years old and under, there were -18,000 fewer jobs held than at the start of 2017. That number should start to turn around in May and June as summer job hunting and hiring begins.

Men over the age of 24 gained the most jobs over the last three months: +74,000 jobs. Compare that to +27,500 for women in the same age bracket. This despite women now accounting for more than 47% of the workforce. Then again females have a somewhat lower employment participation rate, in part due to due to childcare responsibilities.


Sector and Industry Overview

In comparison with 12 months earlier, public sector (government and related) employment increased by +65,000 (+7.2%). Most of the year-over-year increase was in local, municipal and regional public administration.

Private sector positions went up by +220,000 (+1.9%) over that year. Here’s a look at how selected industry groups fared in Q1 2017:

Manufacturing. Following a downward trend throughout 2016, employment in this industry rose by an estimated +24,000 in March this year. It’s the biggest one-month increase in manufacturing since August 2002. However the net effect is that this industry was still at virtually the same level as a year ago.

Business, building and other support services. Total uptick here is +31,000 (+4.2%) in first quarter 2017. This industry was flat for most of last year. Included in this grouping is administrative and clerical jobs, cleaning services to businesses and buildings, as well as employment services.

Wholesale and retail trade. This is the largest industry group by employment, with around 2.8 million people (15% of all workers). Jobs increased for the second consecutive month, up +17,000 in March. Since a year ago there were +51,000 (+1.9%) more people working in this area.

Meanwhile employment declined by -13,000 in transportation and warehousing for March 2017, following two months of gains. On a year-over-year basis jobs in this industry were little changed.


Where Were The Q1 2017 Job Gains Provincially?

British Columbia did especially well this quarter, with +34,900 added jobs. All of that came in full-time positions. The unemployment rate there has fallen to 5.4%.

Ontario and Alberta tied for second place, with +21,900 and +21,000 additional positions respectively. Given that Alberta’s population is less than a third of Ontario’s, this western province is clearly starting to rebound from last year’s sharp employment losses (that were due to low oil and gas prices).

These are the job gains (or losses) by province in the three months of Q1 2017: 



Net Job Change



















Atlantic Canada







Looking Ahead

Oil prices have been rising incrementally, which is good news for Alberta and Saskatchewan’s employment prospects. It also affects the value of our Loonie upward. We have been paying more for imported products while Canada’s dollar is lower.

Headwinds may be approaching though. If the new U.S. President imposes a cross-border tax, and insists on a buy American policy, it could cut into Canada’s trade balances. Given that our economy depends so heavily on exporting raw materials and finished products to our southern neighbours, economists are watching this closely.

In any event keep checking for the latest job postings. Q2 2017 could be when you get that dream job! Let us help you “Findbetter.”

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