February 13, 2023

Weekly EconMinute—January 2023 Labour Force Survey

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

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Despite a very tight labour market, Canadian jobs growth did not slow down in January with employment up 150k (+0.8%) versus December. The same strength was seen in Alberta: employment growth continued (up 20.7k or +0.9%), a level of gains not seen since February of 2022.

While January was an incredibly strong month for Alberta, it’s worth noting that the initial estimate for December jobs growth was revised down to about half of what was first reported. 

That said, Alberta was responsible for a large share of national growth in January, with the third-highest number of jobs added behind only Ontario and Quebec. 

More people entering the labour market drove the employment gains. The increase in the unemployment rate from 5.6% to 6.0% December to January is therefore more of a sign of a healthy labour market than one of an impending recession.

In particular, men and women 55+ have entered or re-entered the labour market over the past couple of months. While women in this age group are now more likely to be working than they were, men 55+ remain the only group less likely to be working (-4% vs pre-COVID). 

Unlike in December which saw all gains come from full-time positions, most gains in January were part-time work. Generally, however, both full and part-time jobs have grown at a similar rate, up about 5-6% since pre-COVID. 

From an industry perspective, professional services and retail trade led the gains in January. That said, jobs growth was particularly broad across industries: 11 of 16 major industries posted gains.

Increased staffing in professional services businesses—e.g. engineering, marketing or law firms—continues to drive the majority of Alberta’s jobs growth since COVID. While this shift has been seen across provinces, it is especially remarkable in Alberta. 

The one bleak spot for Alberta has been wage growth. However, we may be seeing early signs that this is heating up. In January, wages were up nearly 3% on average versus a year ago. Nonetheless, Alberta still has some catching up to do. 

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