Unemployment rate sticks at 43-year low of 5.6%; weak wage growth persists

Statistics Canada office

The unemployment rate stayed at its 43-year low of 5.6% last month as the economy closed out 2018 with the addition of 9,300 net new jobs.

For the second straight month, the jobless rate was at its lowest level since Statistics Canada started measuring comparable data in January 1976.

Economists had expected the addition of 5,500 jobs and an unemployment rate of 5.7%, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

But even in a tightened job market the latest labour force survey shows wage growth delivered another weak reading in December of 1.49%, which is well below inflation.

Year-over-year average hourly wage growth for permanent employees was 1.46% in November, and it has decelerated steadily since its May peak of 3.9%.

Looking back at 2018, Statistics Canada says the country gained 163,300 net new jobs for an increase of 0.9%, which was a slower pace of growth compared with 2.3% in 2017 and 1.2% in 2016.

Employment growth in 2018 was mostly concentrated in the services sectors, which generated 151,000 positions compared with an increase of just 12,300 in goods-producing industries.

In New Brunswick, the unemployment rate was up 0.5% to 8.4% in December.

The provincial economy lost 2,800 full-time and 200 part-time jobs last month.

(With files from Charles Renshaw)