Part-Time Growth in a “Hamster Wheel” Job Market

Today, Statistics Canada reported that employment increased in August, although two-thirds of the additional jobs were part-time positions. The part-time rate rose to 19%, its highest level in more than a year.

Job growth has also been “part-time” in the sense that only a few months this year have seen meaningful employment gains. Over the past six months, employers have added an average of only 12,000 jobs per month – not nearly enough to keep pace with the growth of Canada’s working-age population, let alone reduce unemployment.

Today’s Labour Force Survey also indicates that wages slowed to a crawl in August, edging up by an average of 1.5% compared to a year ago. In other words, wages are just keeping pace with inflation, which was 1.3% in July (the most recent figure available).

In 2013, Canada’s labour market has resembled a hamster wheel. With employers providing almost enough jobs to keep up with population growth and offering wage increases just sufficient to cover inflation, Canadian workers are running faster to stay in place.

Erin Weir is an economist with the United Steelworkers union and a CCPA research associate.

UPDATE (Sept. 7): Quoted in today’s Globe and Mail (page B5), by Canadian Press, and in today’s Saskatchewan newspapers (page B1).

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