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Strength in Canadian City Labor Markets Broadly Distributed Blog Feature

By: Alex Carrick, Chief Economist on September 8th, 2022

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Strength in Canadian City Labor Markets Broadly Distributed

The other day, I wrote about U.S. city labor markets. Today’s article presents the same subject matter and graphics for Canada.

Table 1 ranks 33 Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) in Canada according to two criteria: (1) year-over-year change in the number of total jobs, fastest to slowest; and (2) unemployment rates, lowest to highest.

The Top 5 cities with both good jobs growth and low unemployment rates are shaded green. The next best tier of 5 CMAs appears with purple shading.

It’s interesting that cities with both hues of shading are spread across the country. There’s no one province with a dominance in city jobs creation. Remember that these are all jobs. Construction jobs specifically will be addressed in the next section.

From Graph 1 and focusing on Canada’s six largest (by population) cities, the lowest current unemployment rate is to be found in the nation’s capital, Ottawa-Gatineau (3.5%). The public sector has been a stalwart in maintaining employment levels during the pandemic to date.

Vancouver (4.7%) has the next lowest U rate, followed by Montreal (4.8%). A revival in the energy sector has had knock-on benefits for the U rates of Calgary (5.0%) and Edmonton (5.1%). Toronto (5.9%) is sitting in last place for all jobs unemployment rate among Canada’s six most populous cities.

Canada’s Construction Labor Market

The big size of Toronto’s labor market is made clear, nonetheless, in Table 2. For the construction sector alone, Toronto’s first-place jobs count of 237,000 is nearly equal to the next two largest figures combined, for Montreal and Vancouver (141,000 + 118,000 = 259,000).

In a comparison with U.S. cities, Toronto (237,000 construction jobs) would be positioned in the fourth spot behind New York (398,000), Los Angeles (266,000), and Houston (241,000), but ahead of fifth-place Dallas-Fort Worth (232,000).

Furthermore, Toronto’s year-over-year increase in construction jobs has been quite respectable, +10.5%. Montreal hasn’t done quite as well, +10.0% y/y, but Vancouver has performed considerably better, +18.0%.

Leading the y/y construction jobs charge, though, among the 12 most populous cities in Canada, has been London, Ontario +27.8%. The nearby Kitchener region has also managed a strong upsurge, +16.8% y/y.

Homebuilding almost always plays a key role in providing employment for construction workers. Canadian housing starts held up better than expected through the first half of this year.

Their bedrock strength will soon be tested, however, given that the Bank of Canada has just raised its key policy-setting interest rate (i.e., the overnight rate) to 3.25%.

Table 1

Canada City Labor Markets (Jul 22)

Graph 1

Canada Top 6 Ranked (Jul 22)

Table 2

Canada Major Cities Construction Jobs (Jul 22)


About Alex Carrick, Chief Economist

Alex Carrick is Chief Economist for ConstructConnect. He has delivered presentations throughout North America on the U.S., Canadian and world construction outlooks. Mr. Carrick has been with the company since 1985.

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