October 10, 2023

Weekly EconMinute—September 2023 Labour Force Survey

In this week’s EconMinute, we’re talking about the September 2023 Labour Force Survey.

The Canada labour market—though cooling—is still strong, adding a surprising 64k jobs in Sept. Meanwhile, the Alberta labour market showed a large and surprising loss of 38k jobs after several months of gains.

In August, Alberta led jobs gains (+18k from July to August) across Canada but this month did the opposite. Given the volatility & extreme size of the decline in September, it is unclear whether this is a survey anomaly or a significant, real labour market disruption.

Of note, Alberta’s unemployment rate remains at 5.7% (low compared with the pre-COVID norm of ~7.2%). Rather, the number of people looking for work sharply declined across demographic groups (especially young people)—a trend unique to Alberta’s labour market.

All of the jobs lost in September were full time positions (-62.6k). This represents the steepest drop in full time positions since COVID. Meanwhile, there was actually an increase in part-time positions (+24.8k).

Both goods-producing (-19.6k) and services industries (-18.3k) saw a decline after several months of growth.

From an industry perspective, the decline was primarily driven by construction (-18.7k) and retail (-14.9k)—both industries which tend to fluctuate from month-to-month. In fact, just last month construction was the key driver of jobs gains.

Wage growth ticked up again in Alberta, surpassing the national average for just the third time in at least two years. This, combined with relatively low unemployment and high vacancies (albeit declining), suggests the Alberta’s labour market is still strong. It remains to be seen if the decline in employment was real or the result of survey or seasonal-adjustment anomalies.

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