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Monthly analysis – February 15, 2024

Economy-wide output expands in November

Real gross domestic product rose 0.2% in November, the first headline increase since May. Higher factory output along with increases in transportation and wholesaling activity supported the headline increase, while lower activity in construction, finance industries, and retail trade weighed on gains. Economy-wide output, measured year-over-year, rose above the one percent mark for the first time in four months.

Manufacturing volumes expanded 0.9% in November, the second increase in three months.  Higher production at chemical producers supported the gain as output continued to ramp up following maintenance-related shutdowns in the third quarter. Primary metal producers also posted a notable increase after shutdowns weighed on production in October. Total factory volumes in November were 2.0% below their recent peak in May.

Transportation and warehousing rose 0.8% in November, the third gain in the past four months. Higher carloadings of coal and forestry products bolstered rail output, while water and truck transportation rebounded following the strike by St. Lawrence seaway employees.

Construction output edged down in November for the second consecutive month. Declines in engineering activity weighed on output, while non-residential building construction rose for the second time in three months.  Residential building construction posted its fifth consecutive gain but was 18% below peak levels reported in the spring of 2021.

Activity at real estate agents and brokers contracted for the fifth month in a row following the resumption of interest rate hikes in June and July. Volumes in November were nearly 40% below levels reported in early 2022 before interest rates began to rise. Legal services, which derive much of their activity from real estate transactions, also fell for the fourth time in five months.

Retail volumes edged down after a notable gain in October. Declines at food and beverage stores and general merchandise stores weighed on retail activity, offset by higher volumes at motor vehicle and parts dealers, which advanced for the fourth consecutive month.

Accommodation services expanded for the third month in a row, while activity at food services and drinking places edged down after increasing in October. Arts, entertainment and recreation increased for the second consecutive month but was 2.5% below levels observed in July.

Educational services fell 0.3% in November, reflecting strikes by Quebec workers. Elementary and secondary schools were the largest contributor to the decline. Output in the public sector was unchanged after increasing for six consecutive months.

Statistics Canada's advance estimate suggests that real gross domestic product rose 0.3% in December.

Business openings decline in October

In October, the number of active businesses fell 0.2%, the third decline in four months. The business opening rate fell 0.4 percentage points to 4.2%, while the closure rate remained unchanged at 4.8%. In the fourth quarter, many businesses continued to anticipate obstacles related to rising inflation, rising input costs, and higher interest rates and debt costs.

Headline inflation accelerates in December as shelter costs edge higher

Headline consumer inflation rose to 3.4% in December, up from 3.1% in November. December's acceleration marked the thirty-second time in thirty-three months that the all-items rate has been above three percent. Annual price growth excluding gasoline edged down to 3.5%.

Food price inflation held steady while prices for many items remained elevated. Grocery prices were up 4.7% in the twelve months to December, matching the increase in November. Meat prices were 5.5% higher than in December of last year, while yearly price increases for fresh vegetables slowed to 0.5%. Fresh fruit prices were up 3.3% year-over-year, while increases for pasta products fell out of double-digit territory (+6.4%) for the second time in twenty-two months. Yearly price increases at restaurants edged up to 5.6%, their third consecutive month under the six percent mark.

Shelter costs, measured year-over-year, were up 6.0% in December. Both mortgage interest costs and higher rental prices continued to put upward pressure on headline inflation. Mortgage interest costs were up 28.6% year-over-year, their ninth consecutive month near or just above the thirty percent mark. Annual price growth for rented accommodation, which reflects both new and existing rental contracts, was 7.5% in December, up from 7.3% in November. Yearly price changes for homeowners' replacement costs remained in negative territory for the eighth consecutive month.

Industrial product prices, which measure the prices that producers receive as products leave the factory gate, were down 2.7% on a year-over-year basis in December, due largely to a sizable decline in energy prices. Excluding energy and petroleum products, factory gate prices were 1.1% lower than in December of last year.

Employment increases in January as the unemployment rate edges down

Headline employment rose by 37,000 in January after three months of little change.  All the headline increase reflected higher employment in service industries, supported by gains in wholesale and retail trade, finance and real estate, educational services, and transportation and warehousing. Headline gains were tempered by lower employment in accommodation and food services.

The unemployment rate edged down to 5.7% in January, the first decrease in thirteen months. The decline in January's unemployment rate reflected lower unemployment among youth and older workers. The unemployment rate among core-age workers rose to 5.1%, exceeding the five percent mark for the first time since January 2022. There were 1,225,000 unemployed persons in January, an increase of 169,000, or 13%, from January of last year.

The overall employment rate—the percentage of working-age people who are employed—declined to 61.6% in January as the working-age population continued to expand at a robust pace (+126,000).  In the twelve months to January, total employment has risen by 345,000 while the working-age population has grown by one million. Over this period, the overall employment rate has declined by 0.8 percentage points.

Average hourly wages rose 5.3% in the twelve months to January, down from 5.4% in December. Wage gains during the past year have been stronger among women and high earners. Total hours worked were up 0.6% from December to January.

Job vacancies edge higher in November as payrolls decline

Payroll employment and job vacancies, currently available for reference month November, provide additional insight into how labour market conditions have evolved in recent months. Payroll employment, the number of employees receiving pay and benefits from their employer, fell by 88,300 in November following a decline of 24,000 in October. Most of November's decrease reflected the strike action in Quebec's education sector. Excluding educational services, overall payrolls fell by 25,300 in November.

Job vacancies edged up in November, following little change in October and five consecutive declines from May to September. Vacancies (adjusted for seasonality) totaled 653,000, down 35% from the peak of just over one million in the spring of 2022. The unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio held steady at 1.9% for the third consecutive month, almost twice the ratio observed when the labour market was experiencing historic levels of tightness in mid-2022. In 2019, prior to the onset of the COVID‑19 pandemic, the unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio fluctuated between 2.0 and 2.3.

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Previous analysis

Monthly analysis – January 15, 2024

Economy-wide output was basically unchanged in October

Real gross domestic product was basically unchanged in October for the third consecutive month. Lower factory output and wholesaling activity weighed on production while higher retail volumes and resource extraction supported growth. Real gross domestic product, measured month-over-month, has not increased since May, marking the longest period without a monthly increase since early 2015.

Manufacturing output fell 0.6% in October, the fourth decline in five months. Lower production at machinery and transport equipment manufacturers contributed to the decrease, while chemical producers posted their first increase since June. Total factory volumes were 2.3% below their recent peak in May.

Construction output edged down in October following gains in August and September. Engineering construction fell for the fourth month in a row, while non-residential building construction and repair construction both edged lower. Residential building construction rose for the fourth consecutive month but was 18% below peak levels reported in the spring of 2021.

Activity at real estate agents and brokers contracted for the fourth month in a row following the resumption of interest rate hikes in June and July. Activity at agents and brokers was down 6.8% in October and was 40% below levels reported in early 2022 before interest rates began to rise. Legal services, which derive much of their activity from real estate transactions, also fell for the third time in four months.

Retail volumes rose 1.2% in October, the largest monthly increase since January. Gains were broad-based, led by higher activity at clothing and clothing accessories stores, general merchandise stores, and health and personal care stores.  Activity at motor vehicle and parts dealers increased for the third consecutive month.

Activity at food services and drinking places rose 0.6% in October, the third increase in four months. Accommodation services grew 1.7% after advancing 2.4% in September. Arts, entertainment and recreation edged higher after declines in August and September.

Statistics Canada's advance estimate indicates that real GDP rose 0.1% in November.

Business openings decline in September as closures increase

In September, the number of active businesses fell 0.7%, marking the largest monthly decrease since the early stages of the COVID‑19 pandemic. The business opening rate fell to 4.3% while the closure rate rose to 5.0%. In the third quarter, many businesses continued to anticipate obstacles related to rising inflation, rising input costs, and higher interest rates and debt costs.

Headline inflation holds steady in November as food inflation continues to ease

Headline consumer inflation was 3.1% in November, matching the rate in October.  November's headline print marked the thirty-first time in thirty-two months that the all-items rate has been above three percent. Annual price growth excluding gasoline held steady at 3.6%.

Food price inflation continued to ease while prices for many items remained elevated. Grocery prices were up 4.7% in the twelve months to November, down from 5.4% in October. Meat prices were 5.0% higher than in November of last year, while yearly price increases for fresh vegetables slowed to 2.5%. Fresh fruit prices were up 4.5% year-over-year, while increases for pasta products remained in double-digit territory for the twentieth time in twenty-one months. Yearly price increases at restaurants eased to 5.5%, their slowest pace since March 2022.

Shelter costs, measured year-over-year, were up 5.9% in November, edging below the six percent mark for the first time in four months. Both mortgage interest costs and higher rental prices continued to put upward pressure on headline inflation. Mortgage interest costs were up 29.8% year-over-year, their eight consecutive month near or just above the thirty percent mark. Annual price growth for rented accommodation, which reflects both new and existing rental contracts, was 7.3% in November, down from 8.1% in October. Yearly price changes for homeowners' replacement costs remained in negative territory for the seventh consecutive month.

Industrial product prices, which measure the prices that producers receive as products leave the factory gate, were down 2.3% on a year-over-year basis in November, due largely to a sizable decline in energy prices. Excluding energy and petroleum products, factory gate prices were 0.2% lower than in November of last year and have followed a relatively flat trend in 2023.

Employment unchanged in December while the unemployment rate holds steady

Headline employment was virtually unchanged in December after little change in October and November. Employment rose in professional, scientific, and technical services and in health care and social assistance, while wholesale and retail trade and manufacturing posted declines. Monthly employment gains averaged 23,000 during the second half of 2023, down from 48,000 in the first half of the year.

The unemployment rate held steady at 5.8% in December. The unemployment rate among core-age workers edged down to 4.8%, while the rate among youth fell to 11.3%. The unemployment rate among older workers rose to 5.0%, the highest rate since the spring of 2022. There were 1,245,000 unemployed persons in December, an increase of 187,000 since April.

The overall employment rate—the percentage of working-age people who are employed—decreased to 61.6% in December as the working-age population continued to expand at a brisk pace (+74,000).

Average hourly wages rose 5.4% in the twelve months to December, up from 4.8% in November. Total hours worked were up 0.4% from November to December.

Job vacancies level off in October as payrolls decline

Payroll employment and job vacancies, currently available for reference month October, provide additional insight into how labour market conditions have evolved in recent months. Payroll employment, the number of employees receiving pay and benefits from their employer, was down 44,600 in October, offsetting an increase in September. Payroll employment, measured on trend, has been relatively flat since June (-0.1%). Total labour demand—the sum of payroll employment and vacant positions—has edged lower during this period as businesses scaled back their demand for workers.

Job vacancies levelled off in October, following five consecutive monthly decreases. Vacancies (adjusted for seasonality) totaled 633,400, down 37% from the peak of just over one million in the spring of 2022. The unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio remained at 1.9%, almost twice the ratio observed when the labour market was experiencing historic levels of tightness in mid-2022. In 2019, prior to the onset of the COVID‑19 pandemic, the unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio fluctuated between 2.0 and 2.3.

Monthly analysis – December 7, 2023

Real GDP contracts as exports and business investment decline

Real gross domestic product fell 0.3% in the third quarter following a revised 0.3% gain in the second.  Lower exports, slower inventory accumulation, and lower business outlays on non-residential structures and machinery and equipment weighed on economic activity, while increases in government spending and residential investment mitigated declines.  Economic growth, measured on a year-over-year basis, slowed to 0.5% in the third quarter, the slowest pace since early 2021.

Household disposable income, measured in current dollars, rose 1.0% in the third quarter, buoyed by increases in wages and salaries and government transfers. The household savings rate increased to 5.1% and remains well above pre-pandemic levels.

Data on openings and closures, currently available for reference month August, provide some insight into how businesses are adjusting to a weaker economic outlook. After contracting in June and July, the business opening rate increased to 4.4% in August but remained 0.3 percentage points below its 2015 to 2019 historical average. The business closure rate edged up to 4.7%, the first increase since March. August's closure rate was slightly above its historical average prior to the pandemic. The number of active businesses remained relatively unchanged in August for the third consecutive month.

Economy-wide output edges higher in September

Real gross domestic product edged up 0.1% in September, the first monthly gain since May. Higher factory output and construction activity supported the headline increase while lower mining and oil and gas extraction weighed on production.

Factory output was up 0.9% in September following three consecutive declines. Output rose at food producers and machinery manufacturers, while production was down at petroleum refineries and auto assembly plants. Total factory volumes in September were 1.7% below their recent peak in May.

Construction output rose for the second consecutive month. After pulling back steadily during the first half of 2023, residential building construction rose for the third month in a row in September but remained nearly 20% below peak levels reported in the spring of 2021. Non-residential building construction also rose for the third consecutive month, while repair construction posted its fifth straight decline. Engineering construction fell for the third month in a row after trending higher since late 2020.

Activity at real estate agents and brokers contracted for the third consecutive month following the resumption of interest rate hikes in June and July. Activity at agents and brokers was down 4.1% in September and was over one-third below levels reported in early 2022 before interest rates began to rise.

Retail volumes rose 0.3% in September, supported by higher activity at motor vehicle and parts dealers. Activity at furniture and home furnishing stores was down for the second consecutive month, as was activity at food and beverage stores and clothing and clothing accessories stores. Total retail volumes in September were 0.3% below their recent peak in May.

Many discretionary activities have moderated in recent months. Activity at food services and drinking places edged down in September, the third decline in four months. Arts, recreation and entertainment also posted its third decrease since May.

Statistics Canada's advance estimate indicates that real GDP rose 0.2% in October.

Headline inflation slows as food inflation continues to ease

Headline consumer inflation slowed to 3.1% in October, down from 3.8% in September.  October's deceleration marked the thirtieth time in thirty-one months that the headline rate has been above three percent. Annual price growth excluding gasoline edged down to 3.6%.

Food price inflation continued to ease while prices for many food items remained elevated. Grocery prices were up 5.6% in the twelve months to October, their second consecutive month under the six percent mark. Meat prices were 4.5% higher than in October of last year, while yearly price increases for fresh vegetables eased to 5.0%. Fresh fruit prices were up 4.8% year-over-year, while increases for pasta products remained in double-digit territory for the nineteenth time in twenty months. Yearly price increases at restaurants eased to 5.7%, their slowest pace since March 2022.

Shelter costs, measured year-over-year, rose 6.1% in October, up slightly from September. Both mortgage interest costs and higher rental prices continued to put upward pressure on headline inflation. Mortgage interest costs were up 30.5% year-over-year, their fifth consecutive month just above the thirty percent mark. Annual price growth for rented accommodation, which reflects both new and existing rental contracts, was 8.1% in October, up from 7.1% in September. Yearly price changes for homeowners' replacement costs remained in negative territory for the sixth consecutive month.

Industrial product prices, which measure the prices that producers receive as products leave the factory gate, were down 2.7% on a year-over-year basis in October, due largely to a sizable decline in energy prices. Excluding energy and petroleum, factory gate prices were 0.4% lower than in October of last year and have followed a relatively flat trend in 2023.

Employment little changed while unemployment continues to rise

Headline employment was little changed in November (+25,000) as modest gains among private-sector employees were offset by lower self-employment. Employment rose in manufacturing and construction and declined in wholesale and retail trade, finance and insurance, real estate, rental and leasing. Monthly employment gains have averaged 28,000 from February to November.

The unemployment rate increased to 5.8% in November, the fifth increase in the past seven months. The unemployment rate among core-age workers edged up to 4.9%, while the rate among youth rose to 11.6%. There were 1.24 million unemployed persons in November, an increase of 182,000 since April.

The overall employment rate—the percentage of working-age persons who are employed—edged down to 61.8% in November as the working-age population continued to expand at a brisk pace (+78,000). The employment rate among 25-to-54-year-olds edged down to 84.5%.

Average hourly wages rose 4.8% in the twelve months to November, matching the increase in October. Total hours worked were down 0.7% from October to November.

Businesses continue to scale back their unmet demand for workers

Payroll employment and job vacancies, currently available for reference month September, provide additional insight into how labour market conditions have evolved in recent months. Payroll employment, the number of employees receiving pay and benefits from their employer, was virtually unchanged from June to September, after sizable net additions to payrolls during the spring months. Total labour demand—the sum of payroll employment and vacant positions—edged lower throughout the third quarter as businesses continue to scale back their demand for workers.

Job vacancies were down 40,700 in September, reflecting declines in accommodation and food services and construction. Vacancies (adjusted for seasonality) totaled 632,000, down 37% from the peak of just over one million in the spring of 2022. The unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio edged up to 1.9%, almost twice the ratio observed when the labour market was experiencing historic levels of tightness in mid-2022. September's unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio was similar to pre-pandemic levels.

Monthly update – November 9, 2023

Economy-wide output unchanged in August

Real gross domestic product was basically unchanged in August for the second consecutive month. Lower factory output was a large drag on activity, down for the third month in a row. Accommodation and food services and retail activity also contracted in August, while higher wholesaling activity and mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction offset declines.

Economy-wide output, measured on trend, has been largely unchanged since February, and in August, was 3.4% above pre-COVID levels.

Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction rose 1.2% in August, the third consecutive increase as output rose above levels observed in April, before wildfires weighed on production in late spring. Stronger wholesaling activity in August reflected increases in machinery, equipment and supplies, and coincided with higher import activity.

Factory output was down 0.6% in August, following a 1.1% decrease in July. Food manufacturers, chemical producers and pharmaceutical manufacturers all posted declines while output at auto assembly plants rose for the sixth month in a row. Total factory volumes in August were similar to pre-pandemic levels.

Activity at real estate agents and brokers contracted in August for the second consecutive month following the resumption of interest rate hikes in June and July. Activity at agents and brokers was down 3.8% and was 9% below pre-pandemic levels.

Construction output was unchanged in August after contracting for three consecutive months. After pulling back steadily during the first half of 2023, residential building construction increased for the second month in a row and, in August, was 8% below its pre-COVID benchmark. Repair construction fell for the fourth time in five months, while non-residential building construction was unchanged. Engineering construction declined for the second month in a row after advancing steadily for eleven months.

Retail volumes fell for the third consecutive month in August. Lower activity at motor vehicle and parts dealers contributed to the pullback, while activity also fell at building material and garden equipment and supplies stores, and furniture and home furnishing stores. Volumes in August remained over 3% above pre-pandemic levels.

Accommodation and food services fell 1.8%, offsetting the increase in July. Activity in this sector has trended lower since February and, in August, was 7% below pre-COVID levels.

Air transportation rebounded in August after poor weather conditions impacted activity in June and July. Activity in August was almost one quarter below pre-COVID levels.

Statistics Canada's advance estimate indicates that real GDP was essentially unchanged in September.

Headline inflation slows as food inflation continues to ease

Headline consumer inflation slowed to 3.8% in September, down from 4.0% in August. September's deceleration marked the twenty-ninth time in thirty months that the headline rate has been above three percent. Annual price growth excluding gasoline slowed to 3.7%.

Food price inflation continued to ease while prices for many food items remained elevated. Grocery prices were up 5.8% in the twelve months to September, edging below the six percent mark for the first time in 21 months. Meat prices were 4.4% higher than in September of last year, while yearly price increases for fresh vegetables remained below the double-digit mark for the sixth consecutive month. Fresh fruit prices were up 3.0% year-over-year, while increases for pasta products remained in double-digit territory for the eighteenth time in nineteen months. Yearly price increases at restaurants held steady at 6.1%.

Shelter costs, measured year-over-year, rose 6.0% in September, matching the increase in August. Both mortgage interest costs and higher rental prices continued to put upward pressure on inflation. Mortgage interest costs were up 30.6% year-over-year, their fourth consecutive month at or just above the thirty percent mark. Annual price growth for rented accommodation, which reflects both new and existing rental contracts, was 7.1% in September, up from 6.4% in August. Yearly price changes for homeowners' replacement costs remained in negative territory for the fifth consecutive month.

Employment little changed while the unemployment rate rises

Headline employment was little changed in October (+18,000) as both full-time and part-time employment held steady. Employment increased in construction and in information, culture and recreation, and declined in wholesale and retail trade and manufacturing. Monthly employment gains have averaged 28,000 from February to October.

The unemployment rate increased to 5.7% in October, the fourth monthly increase in the past six months. The unemployment rate among core-age workers edged up to 4.8%, while the rate among youth rose to 11.4%. There were 1.2 million unemployed persons in October, an increase of 171,000 since April.

The overall employment rate—the percentage of working-age persons who are employed—edged down to 61.9% in October as the working-age population continued to expand at a brisk pace (+85,000). The employment rate among 25-to-54-year-olds declined to 84.6% in October.

Average hourly wages rose 4.8% in the twelve months to October, down from 5.0% in September. Total hours worked were unchanged from September to October.

In October 2023, one in three Canadians aged 15 and older was living in a household that had found it difficult or very difficult over the previous four weeks to meet its financial needs in terms of transportation, housing, food, clothing and other necessary expenses.

People living in a rented dwelling were more likely to be in a household experiencing difficulties meeting financial needs (41.3%), compared with those living in a dwelling owned by a household member with a mortgage (36.1%) or without a mortgage (20.0%).

Among Canadians living in dual-earner households with children, 36.1% experienced difficulties meeting financial needs in October. Among single-earner households with children, this proportion rose to 45.5%.

Beginning in December 2023, the monthly commentary on current economic developments featured in the Canadian Economic Dashboard and COVID-19 will migrate to the Canadian Economic Tracker.

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