Employment rose by 303,000 in March as public health restrictions continued to ease in many regions of the country. March’s headline increase reflected gains in industries that were most impacted by lockdown measures early in the year. Employment in retail trade rose by 95,000, as gains over the last two months fully offset the large decline in January. Employment in information, culture and recreation services rose by 62,000, the first increase since September. Employment in accommodation and food services rose by 21,000, after advancing by 65,000 in February.

With March’s headline increase, net employment losses since the onset of the pandemic declined to 296,000, more than half of which reflect losses among 15 to 24 year-olds. Employment among young women in March was 122,000 below pre-pandemic levels, while employment among young men is 39,000 below levels reported in February 2020.

Canada’s unemployment rate in March fell to 7.5%, the lowest level since February 2020. Among 15 to 24 year-olds, the unemployment rate declined to 14.0%. The youth unemployment rate stood at 10.4% prior to the onset of the pandemic.

The labour underutilization rate—which reflects the number of people who are either unemployed, who want a job but did not look for one, or who are employed but worked less than half of their usual hours—fell 1.9 percentage points to 14.7% in March, the lowest level since February 2020.

On April 7th, the agency released February’s merchandise trade report. Trade activity moderated in February after an export-led surge to begin the year. At $98.7 billion, total merchandise trade remained above pre-COVID levels for the second consecutive month, supported by stronger exports levels. Total merchandise exports in February were 4.1% above pre-COVID levels, while imports were 2.8% below levels reported in February of last year. The merchandise trade balance remained in surplus for the second consecutive month, marking the first back-to-back monthly surpluses since late 2016.

Headline exports were down 2.7% in February after advancing by over 8% to start the year. Lower exports of metals, motor vehicles and parts, and aircrafts contributed to the moderation in export levels.

Headline imports fell 2.4% in February, the third decline in the last four months as imports fell to their lowest level since August of last year. Lower imports of motor vehicles and parts and energy products contributed to the headline decrease. Imports of medical and protective goods, measured on a customs basis, were down 1.6% to $2.6 billion in February, the third consecutive monthly decrease.

February data on trade in services were also released on April 7th. Canada’s total international trade in services declined in February, and remained over one-quarter below pre-COVID levels. Most of the decline since the onset of the pandemic reflects lower receipts and payments for travel services.

Source: Statistics Canada