The December employment reports for both Canada and the United States were both outstanding. The total number of jobs north of the border increased by 40,000 according to Statistics Canada. To the south, the net jobs gain was 155,000 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The recent Canadian numbers have been quite extraordinary. In the latest two months, Canada’s employment has risen by nearly 100,000. For 2012 as a whole, the gain was 312,000 net new jobs. Furthermore, almost all of that increase (+307,000) was in the full-time category. Part-time employment from the end of 2011 to the end of 2012 was almost flat (+5,000).
Full-time work is usually better paying and comes with more stability. Workers who are secure in their jobs are better able to make short and long-term spending decisions and commitments, contributing to overall stronger consumer spending, the biggest portion of a nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The gain of 312,000 jobs for 2012 as a whole compares with a long-term historical average of about +200,000 per year.
For the year just passed, the U.S. added a total of 1.835 million net new jobs. Similar to Canada, that’s an increase well ahead of the 20-year average (+1.2 million).
The U.S. has achieved several milestones with respect to its recessionary low point for employment in January 2010. The total number of jobs has recovered more than half of the drop from early 2008 to the beginning of 2010 and is well ahead of the prior (i.e., “dot.com”) peak in the spring of 2001.
U.S. private sector services-providing employment has returned to a level equal to its all-time best before the recession. This is important since this category of work accounts for 70% of total jobs in the U.S. Add in the government sector and the proportion rises to 86%.
Professional and business services employment is also back to its pre-recession high.
More impressively, leisure and hospitality employment has risen to a record, surging above its pre-recession level.
What’s been happening in our industry, construction? In Canada, December’s year-over-year percentage gain in this sector was +1.0%. The U.S. increase was a disappointing +0.3%.
In December alone, however, the U.S. added 30,000 jobs in construction. This is undoubtedly tied to the improvement in housing starts that is underway. Throughout 2013, there will be an upward trend in U.S. construction employment coincident with stronger new homes demand.
In Canada, the housing sector – which is softening at both the new and resale levels – will serve to restrain the total number of construction jobs as we proceed further into 2013.
On a year-over-year percentage basis, manufacturing outperformed construction in both countries. Canada’s gain in December 2012 versus December 2011 was +3.1%. In the U.S., the increase was +1.5%.
Manufacturing employment in the U.S. has been rising by 1.5% for the past two years. While this may not seem that noteworthy (i.e., +2.5% should be the target), it is a significant improvement relative to the percentage rate declines that were recorded throughout the decade of the 00s.
A strong recovery in the auto sector has made a major contribution to employment in the manufacturing sector. The total number of jobs in U.S. motor vehicles and parts production in December was +7.1% year over year.
The emphasis on reining in government spending worldwide has not been particularly evident – from a jobs standpoint – in Canada, where public sector employment in December was 2.6% higher than at the end of 2011. The U.S., however, has achieved a greater measure of success, with a 0.3% decline in government workers.
In the U.S., the total jobless percentage stayed the same in December as the month before at 7.8%. Canada’s unemployment rate in December dropped to 7.1% from 7.2% in November.
Regionally in Canada, the lowest unemployment rate in December was recorded by Alberta at 4.5%, but that was only marginally better than Saskatchewan’s 4.6%.
Manitoba (5.2%) and B.C. (6.5%) were third and fourth for low jobless rates among the provinces. Resource development is still a prime driver of labour markets in the country.
December’s jobless rate in Quebec (7.3%) was lower than in Ontario (7.9%).
Nova Scotia (9.3% unemployment) was the leader among the Atlantic provinces, with all the others recording jobless percentages in double digits.
As for the actual number of new jobs created in the year, Quebec (+138,000) and Ontario (+100,000) provided 76% of the 312,000 total.