Canadian Employment (July) - August 7, 2020

Canadian employment grew by 419,000 jobs in July (2.4%, m/m). Combined with gains in May of 290,000 and gains in June of 953,000, this brought national employment to within 1.3 million of the pre-COVID February level. The national unemployment rate fell by 1.4 percentage points to 10.9 per cent from the previous month. Most of the employment gains in July were in part-time work. Compared to the same month last year, Canadian employment was down by 6.3% (-1.2 million). 

Regionally, all provinces reported an increase in employment except New Brunswick, where employment was little changed. The strongest gains were in Ontario which were almost all in part-time work, reflecting the later easing of COVID-related measures compared with other provinces. In July, employment continued to rise faster among women than men, but on a cumulative basis, men are closer to being back at pre-COVID levels than women. 

To address gaps in the understanding of the impact of the pandemic on certain visible communities, Statistics Canada has enhanced their employment survey. Of note, Statistics Canada found that compared to the same time last year, South Asians and Chinese Canadians experienced the highest increases in unemployment related to the pandemic, in part attributable to their greater concentration in some of the industries hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions. Meanwhile, unemployment rates were lower for Black Canadians and Filipino Canadians, where many work in health care and social assistance industries. 

Employment in BC grew by 70,000 jobs (3%, m/m) in July, reaching almost 94% of the February employment level. This followed job gains of 118,100 in June and 43,000 in May. July's employment gain brought down the unemployment rate by 1.9 percentage points to 11 per cent. In Vancouver, employment increased by 48,000 jobs to reach almost 90% of the February level. Compared to one year ago, employment in BC was down by 7.5% (-192,000) jobs. 

This was another good news report. However, gains in July were lower than in June, reflecting reopening measures that began in June where employment growth was coming back from very low levels. We can expect that recovery will be slower from here on, as many of the hardest hit industries have reopened and will continue to maintain physical distancing measures. Also important are consumers' demand for goods and services, which is expected to be hampered by the still 165,000 unemployed individuals in BC since February, and the winding down of government support programs.

US Real GDP Growth (Q4'2016) - January 27, 2017


US real GDP growth registered a weaker than expected 1.9 per cent growth the final quarter of 2016, and 1.6 per cent growth for the year as a whole.  Growth was pulled lower by a widening US trade deficit, while consumer demand and business investment were robust. Most economists expect US economic growth to accelerate to about 2.2 per cent in 2017.

The pace of economic growth in the United States could be a key determinant in the BC housing market this year. While faster US growth is generally positive for the BC economy, a stronger pace of growth along with a possibly significant shift in the fiscal outlook due to the large tax cuts and ramped-up spending plans of the Trump administration, is already translating to rising long-term interest rates as markets anticipate higher inflation and consequent monetary tightening by the US Federal Reserve. In turn, that uptrend in rates is putting pressure on Canadian mortgage rates, with many lenders increasing their best offered rates. 

 

Copyright British Columbia Real Estate Association. Reprinted with permission.



Canadian Retail Sales - January 20, 2017


Canadian retail sales inched 0.2 per cent higher in November.  Sales were higher in just 5 of 11 sub-sectors, with motor vehicle and parts dealers and building materials supplies leading the way.  E-commerce sales accounted for 3 per cent of total retail sales, the highest proportion to date in 2016.  Given today's data,  we are currently tracking fourth quarter Canadian real GDP growth at 1.5 per cent. 

In BC, retail sales were down 0.7 per cent on a monthly basis, but were 5.5 per cent higher year-over-year.  Year-to-date, retail sales in the province are up 6.5 per cent. 


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Canadian Manufacturing Sales - January 19, 2017


Canadian manufacturing sales rose 1.5 per cent in November after posting a moderate decline the previous month.  Sales were higher in 14 of 21 manufacturing sub-sectors. After adjusting for inflation, the total volume of sales was 1.2 per cent higher. 

In BC, where the manufacturing sector is a significant employer and a key driver of economic growth, sales were up 2.4 per cent on a monthly basis and 9.2 per cent year-over-year. The manufacturing sector has been on a significant upswing after a slow first half with sales posting nearly 8 per cent growth over the second half of the year. That growth is adding to already strong momentum in other sectors and supporting housing demand across BC communities where manufacturing, particularly of forestry products, is an important driver of local economic activity. 


Copyright British Columbia Real Estate Association. Reprinted with permission.


Bank of Canada Interest Rate Announcement - January 18, 2017


The Bank of Canada announced this morning that it is holding the target for its overnight rate at 0.5 per cent. In the press release accompanying the decision, the Bank noted that uncertainty in the global outlook, particularly with regard to policies in the United States, is undiminished. The Canadian economy is forecast to grow 2.1 per cent in both 2017 and 2018, implying the Canadian economy will return to full capacity in mid-2018.  On inflation, the Bank noted that it continued to be lower than expected but should return to it 2 per cent target in coming months.

Political uncertainty in the United States will likely govern the direction of both policy rates and long-term bond yields over the next year. The interest rate on 5-year government of Canada bonds has risen to its highest point in a year, which is adding upward pressure to mortgage rates offered by Canadian lenders.  While the Canadian economy is forecast to post steady growth in 2017, overall slack in the Canadian economy remains persistent.  Without a significant uptick in economic growth, inflation will likely continue to trend at or below the Bank's 2 per cent target.  That, along with lingering uncertainty, will keep the Bank sidelined through 2017 with a chance of lowering its target rate should current downside risks to the economy become realized.


Copyright British Columbia Real Estate Association. Reprinted with permission.