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10 February 2018, 06:41 | Frank Carlson
A man works at the Brose Canada plant in London Ont on Thursday Feb. 27 2014
The number of jobs in Canada fell by 88,000 in January to give the labour market its steepest one-month drop in nine years, Statistics Canada said Friday.
"The data itself, when you look in the weeds, does not suggest that the minimum-wage hike in Ontario is the cause of the weakness", said Frances Donald, senior economist with Manulife Asset Management.
"The concentration of the job loss in Ontario and the focus upon lost part-time jobs in that province will no doubt feed debate on whether large minimum wage hikes took a toll on employment", Scotiabank's Derek Holt wrote in a note to clients. Ms. Donald said Ontario's losses were proportional to the economy. Ontario lost 51,000 jobs in January, entirely due to losses in part-time work. "But Ontario employs 40 per cent of Canadians", she said.
It triggered a backlash among much of the business community, which is dealing with rising interest rates, stricter mortgage rules and uncertain trade relations with the United States and Mexico.
Some have already criticized the increase as being too fast, noting it may be hard for small business owners to adapt to the increased labour costs.
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BMO chief economist Douglas Porter also cautioned against "drawing a straight line from the [wage] hike to one month's job move", noting in a research note that harsh weather in January appeared to have hit employment in the province's construction sector (down 14,900 jobs) and transportation industry (down 5,900 jobs). However, about half of those positive numbers were within the survey's margin of error. For example, the previous two labour surveys shocked markets when they showed employers added a total of 160,000 new positions.
The unemployment rate in Northeast B.C. dropped below four per cent in the first month of 2018. Economists had been expecting a gain for the month of about 9,000 to 10,000 jobs, so the figures that came out were surprising.
The higher minimum rate could have underpinned Canada's stronger wage growth.
Despite rising from 3.5 per cent in December, Victoria now has the country's second lowest unemployment rate behind Quebec City, which reported unemployment at 3.3 per cent. Unemployment in Canada is at 5.9 per cent, 3.9 per cent in Victoria and 4.8 per cent in Nanaimo.
Average hourly wages jumped 3.3 percent from last January, the strongest since March 2016.
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