According to the June Labour Force Survey in Canada, the nation’s employment picture continues to look healthy; unemployment is level, and the number of jobs is growing in numerous provinces. That’s obviously good news, and data suggests that Canada’s economy will continue to grow. But for the doubters, this isn’t enough. Fortunately, answering the questions they ask by looking at what kind of jobs are growing in Canada’s cities only serves to reinforce how healthy Canada’s employment situation actually is.
You don’t have to be too cynical to wonder how much those added jobs actually contribute to the economy; it’s a responsible question to ask. After all, 50,000 new jobs aren’t too exciting if most of them involve manning a deep fryer at a diner. Even a more optimistic onlooker has to wonder whether the jobs being added — at any pay level — are long-term career developments. For example, the EMSI blog recently started more than a few conversations by taking a closer look at the role that temporary employment was playing in the apparently high job growth of many metros in the US. The numbers were startling; in some of the United States’ urban job markets, there was actually a decline in job numbers when temp employment was taken out of the picture.
In Canada, however, the situation is rather different. For one thing, temporary employment isn’t nearly as significant a part of the national employment picture as it is in the United States. Where jobs in NAICS sector 5613 (employment services) make up a big 17.6% of the net jobs the US economy has added since 2009 (787,000 jobs out of 4,473,000 total), Canada’s 5613 sector was only responsible for 2.7% of the nation’s net added jobs over the same period (22,726 jobs out of 838,000).
Meanwhile, not only were temp jobs not responsible for Canada’s job growth, high-paying jobs were. Of the 15 occupations that added the most jobs over the last four years, five paid more than $30 an hour. And occupations that made more than $30 an hour grew by a total of over 277,000 net new jobs. That’s over a third of Canada’s job growth coming out of positions earning significantly more than the national average of $22.58.
So at the national level temp jobs are far less important to the nation’s economy than well-paid careers. But what does the picture look like on a city-by-city basis? Depending on where you look, the answer varies from “good” to “excellent.”
While Canada’s growth attributable to temp jobs is quite low (2.7%), metros like Edmonton are an entirely different story. Many of them owe a much higher percentage of their job growth to jobs in employment services, like Vancouver (9%) and Edmonton (7%). Of course, there are also cities where employment services jobs have actually declined while the economy added jobs – represented by a negative percentage in the graph to the right.
Even in cities with much higher employment services growth, however, the rates we see are nowhere near the USA’s 17.6%. And significantly, while low-paying and temporary jobs are growing quickly, so are the same sorts of well-paid jobs that we saw thriving at the national level. We looked at ten major cities across the country to see how much those jobs had contributed to local economic growth:
While the percentages vary from city to city, the picture seems uniformly encouraging. Six of the 10 cities had more than 30% of their job growth come from highly paid jobs. And three — Regina, Toronto, and Hamilton — had more than half of their growth from that sector.
One caveat to these statistics, especially for cities with lower (10 to 30) percentages of growth coming from highly paid jobs, would be that jobs at that pay grade simply make up that percentage of the overall employment picture for the city. If, say, roughly 26% of Montreal’s jobs earn more than $30 an hour, it’s not as encouraging to see 26% of the overall growth coming from that sector; rather, it would simply mean that a rising tide was floating all the boats. To see if this is the case, we also compared the percentage growth rate of jobs over $30 an hour to the growth rate of all jobs, in the graph to the right.
As we suspected, in some of the cities where $30/hr jobs were less of a factor, their growth has only kept pace with the rest of the economy. Look at Quebec City, Winnipeg, and Edmonton; they had the lowest percentages in the previous graph, and, sure enough, their jobs above $30/hr are lagging slightly behind the rest of the economy. Edmonton in particular is an interesting case. It was also the city with the highest growth in employment services jobs, which had grown about 77% since 2009. Its performance, while still strong, is markedly different than its neighbour Calgary, where the same set of jobs is out-performing the economy by 3% – and where employment services jobs were actually down by a small percentage.
Overall, even seeing that these higher-paid jobs are only keeping pace with the local economy is still a very good sign. Contrary to naysayers who might prefer to suggest that Canada’s economic growth is illusory and built on low-paying, entry-level jobs, this data suggests that even in the slower job markets some of the strongest growth is coming from jobs that make a strong living for workers. And for Canadians looking to improve their employment situation, that’s very good news.
Data for this post came from Analyst, EMSI’s online labour market data tool. To learn more, or to see a sample of our data for your region, contact Fraser Martens. Follow EMSI on Twitter @DesktopEcon.