Canada is experiencing a labour boom – and it extends to just about every corner of the country. In March, eight provinces had unemployment rates below 6 per cent, which has never happened before. The national rate of 5 per cent is hovering near all-time lows, a reflection of tight labour market conditions.
Over more than two decades, the disparities between provincial unemployment rates have been shrinking, and now those differences are especially small. Despite having very different economies, Alberta and Nova Scotia enjoy jobless rates of 5.7 per cent. Quebec boasts the lowest, 4.2 per cent, although B.C. isn’t far behind at 4.5 per cent.
“Canada often sees stark variation in job-market conditions across different regions of the country, but that is not the case today,” wrote Robert Kavcic, senior economist at Bank of Montreal, in a recent client note.
“This can be seen as a good thing. We’ve often vouched for policy measures that improve the mobility of labour in this country (to help counter regional imbalances). It can also be seen as evidence that the economy is very broadly hot, not powered by any particular region or industry.”
It’s possible for unemployment rates to fall if jobless people leave the labour force by no longer actively looking for work. At that point, they would not meet Statistics Canada’s definition of unemployed.
But that’s not what’s happening here. The labour participation rate – the proportion of the country that is working or searching for a job – was 65.6 per cent in March, about the same as five years earlier.
“We’re seeing very low discouraged [job] searchers right now,” Andrew Fields, a senior analyst at Statscan, recently told The Globe and Mail.
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