Jobless rate falls to 6.5%, but wages stall


OTTAWA – The unemployment rate fell last month to its lowest level since the start of the last major recession nearly nine years ago, but wage growth stalled to its weakest in more than two decades, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Hourly wages expanded by 0.7 per cent in April, the slowest year-over-year growth since the federal agency started collecting that data in January 1997.

The country’s unemployment rate fell to 6.5 per cent last month — its lowest level since October 2008 and 0.6 percentage points lower compared to a year earlier — as fewer youth searched for work.

The drop in youth participation helped push the jobless rate down by 0.2 percentage points in April even though overall employment was almost unchanged.

Some analysts said the data will likely continue to give the Bank of Canada some cause for concern on the state of the economy.

“The fly in the ointment continues to be weak wage growth,” said RBC senior economist Nathan Janzen in a note to clients.

Michael Dolega, a senior economist with TD Economics, said the figures were evidence that the “job machine” as of late has cooled.

“Despite the decline in unemployment, this report is unlikely to encourage the (Bank of Canada) to change its dovish tone on the outlook for the economy and Canadian monetary policy,” Dolega said in a research note. “In particular, the soft wage data will underscore the likely cool-off in consumption over the medium-term.”

There were job gains of 3,200 last month, though Statistics Canada considers that statistically insignificant.

A consensus of economists had expected the unemployment rate to stay at 6.7 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

A closer look at the data showed a loss of 50,500 positions in the more-desirable private-sector category, while the public sector added 35,200 jobs. There were also 31,200 fewer full-time jobs last month, while the number of part-time positions grew by 34,300.

Compared to a year earlier, the data showed that Canada added 275,700 jobs, 189,600 of which were full-time positions.

The youth unemployment rate slipped 1.1 percentage points to 11.7 per cent last month with help from a 0.5-percentage-point drop in the youth participation rate.