Employment rose by 259,000 in February as public health measures eased in many regions of the country. February’s gain, concentrated in industries that were heavily impacted by the recent lockdown measures, offset headline losses in December and January. Employment in retail trade rose by 122,000, while employment in accommodation and food services increased by 65,000. Overall gains were concentrated in Quebec and Ontario.

About one-half of February’s headline increase reflected higher employment among core-age workers, while almost 40% reflected gains among younger Canadians, who were heavily impacted by the recent lockdown measures.

Canada’s unemployment rate in February fell to 8.2%, the lowest level since March 2020. Among 15 to 24 year-olds, the unemployment rate declined to 17.1%.

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 1.8 percentage points to 16.6%, the lowest level since February 2020.

January’s report on building construction, released on March 8th, underscores the pandemic’s continuing impact on Canada’s housing market. Investment in single-unit dwellings advanced for the eighth time in the last nine months, and was 19% above pre-pandemic levels to start the year. Non-residential outlays, which held steady at $4.4 billion, remained over 12% below pre-pandemic levels. Following sharp declines from July to October, spending on non-residential buildings has been stable in recent months. Spending on industrial buildings in January was down 12% from levels reported in February 2020, while outlays on commercial buildings were down 17%.

On March 11, the Leading indicator of international arrivals to Canada provided a first glimpse of travel into Canada during February. US residents made 41,200 trips to Canada through land ports with electronic sensors, down 94.5% compared with February 2020, while 130,200 Canadians returned from the United States through these same ports, down 91.9%. Non-residents arriving in Canadian airports equipped with electronic kiosks were down 96.6% year-over-year in February while the number of Canadian residents returning from abroad via these same airports fell 95.6%. Before testing on arrival and a hotel stopover was required as of February 22, the average number of returning Canadians by air was 2,583 per day, reaching 4,065 from February 19 to 21 and then dwindling to 718 after the additional requirements.

The national balance sheet and financial flow accounts for the fourth quarter of 2020 was released on March 12th. Despite the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic, household sector net worth—the value of all assets less liabilities—rose 3.7% to $12.8 trillion in the fourth quarter. Gains in the value of household financial assets, led by increases in pension wealth and equities, contributed to higher net worth late in the year, as did increases in the value of residential real estate, which surpassed $6 trillion for the first time on record. Over the course of 2020, household net worth has increased by 9.3%.

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Source: Statistics Canada