September Job Numbers: Trouble Ahead

Against the backdrop of fears of a slowing economy, today’s job numbers for the month of September are superficially re-assuring. The national unemployment rate is down slightly, from 6.5% to 6.4%, and total employment is up by 16,000.

However, the fall in the unemployment rate is partly driven by a decline in the total work-force. Most importantly, there are signs of a growing shift to more insecure and precarious jobs.

Full-time employment fell by 15,000 in the month, offset by a significant rise in part-time jobs. And about half of the new jobs came in the form of self-employment, coming on top of a very sharp rise in self-employment at the expense of paid jobs in August.

The employment rate of youth – often a barometer of changes at the margin in the job market – fell from 58.4% to 58.1%.

Average hourly earnings are up by only 0.9% compared to a year ago when adjusted for inflation. This is well down from 1.3% in August. And the national number in both cases was driven up in significant part by the much higher Alberta wage increase number.

These numbers would have looked a lot worse if it had not been for an unexpected jump of 19,000 in manufacturing employment. While this is clearly good news, there are few signs on the ground that the four year old loss of industrial jobs (now totaling 309,000 lost jobs since August, 2002) is going to come to an end anytime soon, Indeed, many future layoffs have been announced, but not yet implemented.

Add it all up, and there are clear signs of trouble ahead. The jobs issue is going to be very much on the political agenda as we head into the pre Budget and, likely, pre federal election Fall and Winter months.

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