The number of employees receiving pay or benefits from their employer—measured by the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH) as payroll employment—decreased by 26,100 (-0.1%) in May, the first decline since May 2021. Ontario (-0.4%) and Manitoba (-0.4%) recorded the largest payroll employment losses, while British Columbia (0.3%) was the lone province to record an increase.

Payroll employment decreases in both the goods- and services-producing sectors in May

Payroll employment in the goods-producing sector decreased by 20,600 (-0.7%) in May, led by losses in construction (-1.5%). In the services-producing sector, the number of payroll employees decreased by 14,200 (-0.1%). Losses were spread across several sectors, including educational services (-0.9%), health care and social assistance (-0.5%) and retail trade (-0.4%). In contrast, payroll employment increased in professional, scientific and technical services (0.9%), accommodation and food services (0.7%) and real estate and rental and leasing (0.6%).

Payroll employment in retail trade decreases for the second consecutive month

Payroll employment in retail trade decreased by 8,000 (-0.4%) in May. While this was the second consecutive monthly decrease, employment in the sector was up by 110,500 (+5.8%) compared with one year earlier.

Ontario (-1.3%) accounted for nearly all of the payroll employment decrease in retail trade in May, followed by Alberta (-0.4%). Quebec (0.3%), British Columbia (0.3%), Saskatchewan (1.1%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (0.5%) were the four provinces in which payroll employment in the sector increased in May.

Average weekly earnings continue to increase on a year-over-year basis

While the Consumer Price Index increased by 7.7% in May, average weekly earnings were up 2.5% on a year-over-year basis, a lower rate of growth than in April (3.2%) and March (4.2%). In general, changes in the earnings growth can be the result of a number of factors, including changes in wages and changes in the composition of employment and average hours worked each week.

In May, nine provinces reported year-over-year increases in average weekly earnings, led by New Brunswick (7.4%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (5.9%).

On a year-over-year basis, average weekly earnings increased in more than half of all sectors in May, led by retail trade (9.3%) and professional, scientific and technical services (8.1%). In contrast, average weekly earnings were down on a year-over-year basis in May in arts, entertainment and recreation (-9.7%), and information and cultural industries (-6.6%).

Average weekly hours worked unchanged

Average weekly hours worked were unchanged in May compared with the previous month, remaining 1.5% above their pre-COVID level. Wholesale trade (1.1%) was the lone sector to report a monthly increase.

Just over one million vacant jobs for the second consecutive month in May

Across all sectors, employers in Canada were actively seeking to fill just over one million (1,005,700) vacant positions at the beginning of May, little changed from the record high of the previous month, and up 42.5% from May 2021 (not seasonally adjusted). New data developed by Statistics Canada to remove seasonal variations indicate that job vacancies increased steadily until December 2021 before stabilizing somewhat in recent months.

The job vacancy rate, which measures the number of vacant positions as a proportion of all positions (vacant and filled), remained at 5.8% for a second consecutive month in May, but was up 4.4% from 2021 (not seasonally adjusted). A low unemployment rate of 5.1% (Labour Force Survey, not seasonally adjusted) combined with the high number of vacancies meant that the unemployment-to-job-vacancy ratio was 1.1 in May, down from 2.4 in 2021. A lower unemployment-to-job-vacancy ratio indicates a tighter labour market and possible labour shortages. Total labour demand (the sum of filled and vacant positions) reached a record high of nearly 17.5 million in May, up 8.5% on a year-over-year basis.

Across several sectors, job vacancies hold steady

In accommodation and food services, employers were actively seeking to fill 161,100 vacant positions in May, little changed from the previous month. Job vacancies in retail trade (99,200), manufacturing (86,800), construction (84,600) and transportation and warehousing (51,100) were also little changed in May.

Source: Statistics Canada