A Blue Christmas for Workers: Canada’s Job Market Ended 2013 With a Thud

It was a blue Christmas for many Canadian workers and job-seekers. Statistics Canada reported today that employment fell by 46,000 in December.

As a result, Canada’s unemployment rate jumped to 7.2%. Also today, the US Department of Labor reported that the American unemployment rate fell to 6.7% in December.

Taking account of national differences in how these rates are calculated, unemployment is actually still a bit higher in the US. But the notion that Canada has a stronger job market than the US now rests on very thin ice.

Canada’s job market ended 2013 with a thud. On average, Canadian employers created a measly 8,500 jobs per month last year – just one-third of the moderate rate of employment growth experienced in 2012.

The only silver lining is that most of December’s employment decline was actually a decline in self-employment, which fell by 38,000, rather than a loss of paid positions. While increases in self-reported self-employment made Canada’s employment figures look less bad during much of 2013, those phantom jobs disappeared at the end of the year.

UPDATE (Jan. 18): Quoted in last Saturday’s Toronto Star (page B1).

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

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