Skip to main content

An oil field worker walks up a flight of stairs near wellheads that inject steam into the ground and pump oil out at a project near Fort McMurray, Alta., in this file photo.© Todd Korol / Reuters

Canada shed a surprising 35,700 jobs in November, wiping out gains made in the previous month when the economy benefited from temporary hiring for the federal election.

The loss comes after four consecutive months of job growth, with government data showing November's huge decline in public administration employment almost matching the jobs created in October.

Statistics Canada said the blip in federal public administration jobs across the country "corresponds" with the type of work done during the election and noted similar swings were seen in previous federal elections.

"The federal election got 'blamed' for a burst in Canadian job gains in October," CIBC's chief economist Avery Shenfeld said in a research note. "Over all, a weak report, even after looking through the election impact on the prior month," he said.

Discarding the loss of election-related work, the j report still show a muted job market with energy-heavy Alberta shouldering its second consecutive month of employment declines.

The province's unemployment rate hit 7 per cent, the worst since the Great Recession, as the low oil price continues wreak havoc on Alberta's economy. Most of the job losses were in trucking, although government data showed declines in finance, insurance and real estate.

Nearly 30,000 natural resources jobs have disappeared since oil prices started plummeting in the summer of last year. The weakened energy sector has spread throughout Alberta's economy from housing and financial services to arts and culture.

Rental vacancies have surged in Fort McMurray, the heart of the oil sands. Residents are fleeing the northern Alberta city, while others cannot afford to leave. Now out of work, residents are also stuck with higher costs of living for groceries, utilities, housing and even gas.

"The downsizing of projects and staff numbers has impacted families that have never before been without employment," said Diane Shannon, executive director with the city's United Way. Ms. Shannon said some families are at risk of homelessness because they are not earning enough. "There are families now who are accessing services who used to be the donors and supporters of those services," she said.

Over all, employment growth is incremental, reflecting Canada's emergence from a mild recession earlier this year. On average, the nation has created about 10,000 jobs a month over the past year.

"Underlying Canadian job growth is just grinding along at an achingly slow pace," Bank of Montreal's chief economist Douglas Porter said in a research note. "The economy is simply not growing quickly enough to absorb all the new entrants."

Employment declined among Canadians in their prime working years, or those between the age of 25 and 54, another worrisome development in the nation's labour market.

Unsurprisingly, employment in this age range fell in the natural resources sector. But this core group also lost jobs in industries such as transportation, manufacturing, warehousing, and accommodation and food services.

The jobless rate for this group rose to 6.1 per cent in November from 5.5 per cent a year ago. Their participation rate has increased to levels higher than in the 1980s and 1990s, suggesting that it has become harder to find employment.

"They are certainly engaged and attached to the labour market, actively searching for work. But it looks like they cannot find jobs," said Andrew Fields, labour analyst with Statistics Canada.

The worse-than-expected November job losses pushed Canada's unemployment rate up to 7.1 per cent. Analysts had expected the rate to remain unchanged at 7 per cent.

Meanwhile, the United States beat expectations and created 211,000 jobs, fuelling market sentiment that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates when it meets later in December.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct

Tickers mentioned in this story