Canada added 150,000 jobs last month, 10 times what economists expected

Canada’s economy added 150,000 jobs in January, blowing past expectations for the second month in a row.

Statistics Canada reported Friday that most of the jobs — more than 120,000 — were of the full-time variety.

The gains come on the heels of a similarly outsized gain the previous month. They were also ten times more than the amount of jobs that economists were expecting to have been added.

Every province except Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick added jobs, but most of the gains were in Ontario and Quebec.

And most of the jobs were in the private sector, which added 132,000 new positions.

The construction industry was a leading source of strength, adding 16,000 new jobs in January. In the past year, the construction industry has added 114,000 jobs, an expansion of more than seven per cent, “making construction one of the fastest-growing industries over the previous 12 months,” the data agency said.

Booming demand in the construction sector comes as no surprise to Jenna Wood, director of human resources at TSX-listed construction firm Aecon Inc.

The company has been in need of workers since even before the pandemic started, which is why it launched a training program targeting women, who are traditionally underrepresented in the industry.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in interest, which is awesome,” she told CBC News in an interview. “It’s a great place to be [because] there’s a labour shortage that’s going to continue to grow in the coming years.”

Construction worker Lauren Buchanan is shown at a training centre in Toronto.
Lauren Buchanan is in training to be a construction worker through a program led by Aecon Ltd. (Shawn Benjamin/CBC)

Lauren Buchanan signed up for the program, and she’s loving her choice so far.

“I just like the hands-on aspect of it. You’re actually out there doing things and time kind of flies by when you are doing things like that,” she told CBC News. “It’s really helpful in the sense that you’re building part of your community. You can look at things and say that, ‘I built that.'”

Strong demand for workers

Aecon is investing in training programs to meet its need for workers, but construction is far from the only sector facing a labour crunch.

Human resources firm Robert Half says a majority of firms it deals with are planning to add full-time workers in the next six months, which is an encouraging sign for anyone looking for work, or a better-paying job.

“We hear of some layoffs at some big tech firms but we’re also hearing of many small- to mid-sized companies having trouble attracting … high-skilled talent,” the company’s national director Michael French told CBC News in an interview.

“Even though there are some headwinds, we are finding that the job market is still very, very strong. Managers can’t find the people they want.”

Strong demand for workers is pushing up wages, with the average hourly salary hitting $33.01 during the month. That’s up by $1.42 in the past year, which is an increase of 4.5 per cent. That’s a decent raise by historical standards, but it’s still short of the 6.3 per cent increase in the cost of living in the past year. 

Marwa Abdou with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the strong job gains show that fears that Canada’s economy may be on the verge of a recession are overdone.

“January’s blockbuster jobs report is proof that there is still plenty of wind in the sails for Canada’s labour market,” Abdou said. “The big takeaway from this morning’s data is that calls for a recession … will have to wait.”

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