Skip to main content

People walk on the sidewalk of Bay Street past the Toronto Stock Exchange building in Toronto on July 30, 2013.Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

While the rest of the economy has been adding jobs steadily since the financial crisis, the financial industry has had trouble topping the peak employment levels reached five years ago.

From August, 2003, to August, 2008, when the financial crisis was reaching its peak, growth in financial jobs outpaced the rest of the economy vastly.

Overall jobs grew by 8.7 per cent in that five year period, rising from about 16 million to 17.4 million, according to Statistics Canada figures. In that same period, finance and insurance jobs soared 22 per cent from about 653,000 to just shy of 800,000 jobs.

Since then, the rest of the economy has ground out jobs, while the finance industry has largely been stuck. The total number of jobs in Canada has now topped 18 million, rising by about 3.8 per cent in the last five years.

The number of finance jobs has had trouble rising much above 800,000 for any sustained period, and in August sat at 805,600, about a 1 per cent gain over five years, StatsCan estimated. However, as recently as May, the number was basically unchanged from mid-2008.

It's hard to see what would cause employment in financial services to break much higher and end that dismal streak. The stock brokerage industry is in the doldrums. Certain areas of wholesale finance are struggling mightily.

Canada's main banks are booking their usual billion dollar profits but hardly on hiring sprees. Executives at the banks are focused on expense management given concerns that loan growth must eventually cool when housing does (so far that has proved illusory, but shareholders are quite pleased with the expense controls so they are unlikely to go away.)

Technological gains continue to make individual employees in all areas of financial services more productive.

Finance, once a jobs leader, may remain a laggard for a while yet.

(Boyd Erman is a Globe and Mail Capital Markets Reporter & Streetwise Columnist.)

Return to Streetwise home page.

The Globe has launched a Streetwise and ROB Insight newsletter, with content available exclusively to Globe Unlimited subscribers. Get the best of our exclusive insight and analysis delivered straight to your inbox in a daily e-mail curated by our editors. Sign up for it and other newsletters on our newsletters and alerts page.