Capital region transforming into jobs machine as 50,000 added in past year

James Bagnall – Ottawa Citizen

The capital region jobless rate slid to 4.4 per cent in September. POSTMEDIA

The capital region’s job market has been on steroids of late.

Employment levels jumped 12,600 in September compared to August — marking the third straight month in which job gains have exceeded 12,000.

The result in September was an unemployment rate of just 4.4 per cent, once again matching the generational low established in the spring of 2018. This compared with a jobless rate 4.7 per cent in August.

The size of the labour force, which includes people looking for work, increased 10,100.

About 90 per cent of the net additions in both jobs and labour force took place in Ottawa, which accounts for 76 per cent of the region’s population.

Statcan adjusted these numbers to account for seasonal influences.

The underlying strength of the region’s economy can be seen even more clearly from the perspective of the past year. Ottawa-Gatineau’s employment base grew nearly seven per cent to a record 789,700 during the 12 months ended in September compared to a rise of just 2.2 per cent to 19.1 million jobs for the country.

What’s remarkable is that locally nearly all the 49,600 new jobs were added on the Ottawa side of the river. There, employment surged 8.3 per cent year over year to 604,400 compared to a relatively anaemic 1.9 per cent increase in Gatineau to 185,300 jobs.

To get an idea of what’s driving the trends check out individual industry sectors (where data is unadjusted for seasonality.)

Overall, the capital region’s employment climbed 7.1 per cent — up 52,400 over the past year. On the same unadjusted basis, the country’s job totals rose 2.3 per cent, or 441,200, good news for the governing Liberals as they seek re-election.

The two hottest job sectors in the capital region were professional services and a category that includes finance, insurance & real estate. Each saw employment gains in excess of 20 per cent year over year — producing rises of 15,900 and 6,200 respectively.

Given the torrid state of the capital’s real estate market, where house prices have been increasing at or near double-digit rates in recent months, strong employment increases in that sector aren’t surprising.

But the robust gains in the professional services sector are a bit of a surprise because federal government spending on third-party expertise tends to slow in the run up to a federal election.

One factor may be the extra spending allocated to outside contractors to try to fix botched or delayed federal government information technology projects, not least of which is the Phoenix pay system.

Other sectors with unusually good employment growth year-over-year include restaurants & hotels — up 14.6 per cent year-over-year for 5,300 net new jobs — and retailing & wholesaling. Employers in the latter sector added 5,400 jobs over the same period for a net gain of 6 per cent. That was more than double the percentage rise for the country in that sector.

The region’s most important sector, public administration, saw a 5.6 per cent net rise in jobs to 174,500 — representing a gain of 9,300. It was one of very few sectors in the capital where employment levels increased at roughly the same rate as for the country as a whole.

Nationally, Canada’s unemployment rate slid to 5.5 per cent in September as the economy added 54,000 net new jobs, driven by gains in full-time work.

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