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The Daily

Thursday, April 5, 2007
March 2007

Employment jumped by an estimated 55,000 in March, continuing the upward trend that began in September 2006. Despite this growth in employment, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.1%, as more people entered the labour market.

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In the first quarter of 2007, employment grew by an estimated 158,000, the strongest first quarter growth since 2002. Provincial growth rates for the first quarter were particularly strong in British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick.

The employment rate in March reached 63.5%, its highest level in 31 years. March's employment increase is largely attributable to strength in Quebec and British Columbia. These two provinces, along with Manitoba, boosted their employment rates to record levels.

British Columbia's unemployment rate dipped to a record low of 3.9% in March.

The employment rate for adult women reached an all-time high of 59.0% in March, as women continue to be the main beneficiaries of employment growth.

Gains in March were based in the service sector, especially in trade, accommodation and food services, information, culture and recreation, and other services.

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Women capture the lion's share of March growth

Women aged 25 and over captured most of the employment increases in March (+39,000). Steady employment growth since the start of 2006 has led to a series of record employment rates for adult women, reaching a new high of 59.0% in March. Over the past twelve months, employment growth for adult women (+3.8%) was more than double that of adult men (+1.7%). Employment growth among youths remained more modest at 1.2%.

Canada's labour force participation rate — the proportion of the working-age population that has a job or is looking for one — has jumped 0.6 percentage points since October 2006, reaching 67.7% in March. This strong increase is primarily the result of more women participating in the labour force.

Women aged 55 and over attained a record high employment rate of 25.8% in March. While the employment rate for women aged 25 to 54 has been increasing for several decades, the upward trend in the employment rate for older women began in 1997. Older men have also seen their employment rate rise over the same period.

Service sector powers growth

Employment growth in the service sector in March (+66,000) more than offset the weakness of the goods-producing sector. The largest increases in the service sector were in Ontario (+26,000), Quebec (+19,000) and Alberta (+19,000).

Employment in trade grew by an estimated 27,000 in March, with nearly half the increase in Alberta (+12,000). This month's strength was driven mainly by gains in wholesale trade, potentially a result of increased activity following the strike by Canadian National Railway Company workers that ended in February.

Accommodation and food services employment grew by 15,000 in March, a result of an increase in accommodation services. Over the past year, employment in accommodation and food services has risen by 8.8%. This represents the largest increase among the different service-producing industries, with Ontario accounting for more than half of the growth.

Record low unemployment rate in British Columbia

For a third straight month, British Columbia's unemployment rate reached a record low. In March, the unemployment rate dipped to 3.9%. The British Columbia economy added 13,000 workers in March, bringing total gains for the first quarter to 47,000 (+2.1%). The March employment rate, at 63.8%, was the highest in three decades.

The manufacturing sector continued to show strength in British Columbia, up 11,000 in March and 25,000 since August 2006. The provincial economy also benefited from strong gains in information, culture and recreation, up 18,000 (+17%) in the first three months of the year.

Quebec's employment rose by an estimated 29,000 in March, the largest monthly gain since May 2006. As a result, Quebec's employment rate increased to 60.8%, its highest level in three decades. Gains in March were spread across a number of industries. The unemployment rate in Quebec edged down to 7.6%, hovering near its 31-year low.

For the second consecutive month, employment was little changed in Alberta in March. Employment losses in the goods sector (-19,000) were offset by similar increases in the service sector. This was the first sizable monthly decline in the goods-producing sector since March 2005. The unemployment rate in Alberta remains the lowest in the country, at 3.6%

Employment in Manitoba grew by an estimated 3,100 in March, primarily in accommodation and food services as well as in utilities. The province reached a new record high employment rate of 66.3%. For the first quarter of 2007, employment rose by 6,000 or 1.0%, mostly in the goods sector.

Overall employment in Ontario was little changed in March, as growth in the service sector was partly offset by weakness in the goods sector. So far this, year employment is up only 0.4%, well below the national growth rate of 0.9%.

In the North, the proportion of people aged 15 and over working remains high. In Nunavut, the employment rate increased to 63.1% in March, up from 55.6% from one year ago (three-month moving average). Employment rates in the Northwest Territories at 75.0% and in the Yukon at 67.3% were virtually unchanged compared to March of last year.

Wages increase in several provinces

During the first three months of 2007, the average hourly wage in Canada rose an estimated 2.4% compared to the same period last year. This exceeds the most recent comparable Consumer Price Index, which increased by 1.6%.

Alberta's booming labour market continued to exert pressure on the province's wages, which rose 5.4% for the first quarter of 2007 compared to the same period last year. This increase was tempered by a 4.5% rise in consumer prices. Similarly, wage growth of 3.6% in British Columbia was dampened by a 2.2% increase in prices.

New Brunswick and Manitoba also benefited from sizeable wage increases in the first quarter of 2007. In New Brunswick, the average wage increase was 3.8%, well above the 0.6% increase in consumer prices. Manitoba also experienced a notable rise in the average hourly wage (+4.4%) compared to an increase in prices of 1.8%.

Note: The Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates are based on a sample, and are therefore subject to sampling variability. Estimates for smaller geographic areas or industries will have more variability. For an explanation of sampling variability of estimates, and how to use standard errors to assess this variability, consult the "Data quality" section of the publication Labour Force Information (71-001-XWE, free).

Available on CANSIM: tables 282-0001 to 282-0042, 282-0047 to 282-0064 and 282-0069 to 282-0099.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3701.

Available at 7:00 a.m. online under The Daily module of our website.

A more detailed summary, Labour Force Information (71-001-XWE, free) is now available online for the week ending March 17. From the Publications module of our website, under Free Internet publications, choose Labour. LAN and bulk prices are available on request. The CD-ROM Labour Force Historical Review, 2006 (71F0004XCB, $209) is now available.

Data tables are also now available online. From the By Subject module of our website choose Labour.

The next release of the Labour Force Survey will be on May 11.

For general information or to order data, contact Client Services (toll-free 1-866-873-8788; 613-951-4090; To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Vincent Ferrao (613-951-4750) or Jeannine Usalcas (613-951-4720), Labour Statistics Division.

Tables. Table(s).