August 2011 Labour Force Survey – Manitoba Weathers the Storm

Errol Black

The August Labour Force Survey was released on September 9th.  Although Manitoba fares better than most, the results are not encouraging.

A number of analysts have noted in recent weeks that the lack of growth and job creation in the economy is attributable to a combination of factors.  These include the appreciation of our dollar and the sad state of the U.S. economy which is hurting the export of manufactured products to the U.S.,  and a growing sense amongst consumers and firms that things are likely to worsen in the immediate future because of a deterioration in the global economy.

Progressive economists argue that the latest numbers are good reason for the federal government to put its rush to austerity on hold and focus attention instead on the worsening problems in the economy and labour market.

For the country as a whole, employment growth has all but stalled.  Over the 12 month period ending August 2011, employment was up by 223,000 jobs or 1.3%. This increase in employment bumped the employment rate from 61.8% to 61.9%.  On the flip side of the coin, the number of unemployed workers fell by 138,300.  While this was reflected in a reduction of the unemployment rate from 8.1% to 7.3%, it is also important to note that there were 132,000 less individuals in the labour force, a result which reduced the participation rate by 0.5 points (from 67.2% to 66.7%).

These results suggest that job creation in the country as a whole has not gained much traction over the past year.  This is confirmed by the changes in the past month – July to August, 2011- that has seen the employment rate unchanged at 61.9%, the participation rate down 0.1 points (66.8% to 66.7%), and the unemployment rate up 0.1 points (7.2% to 7.3%).

Manitoba fares better than most

Not surprisingly, the conditions in the national labour market over the past year are replicated in most provinces, including Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.  The sole exception is Alberta where job creation does have traction.

A silver lining to this otherwise discouraging situation is that the unemployment rate remains low in Manitoba at 5.4%.

There are a few other bright notes in the Manitoba economy.

  • According to a recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, confidence of small to mid-size businesses in Manitoba tends to be stronger here than in the country as a whole.  One result of the CFIB survey that is especially encouraging in relation to the labour force is that “20 per cent of Manitoba businesses plan to increase full-time employment in the next three to four months (as compared  to 14 per cent nationally) and only five per cent plan to decrease (as compared to 12 per cent nationally).”
  • University enrolment is up.  According to Free Press reporter Nick Martin“Enrolment in Winnipeg’s two largest universities has soared to record levels” (Winnipeg Feee Press, September 10).
  • Over the longer term, the province’s plan to move ahead with strategic investments in Hydro power development and physical and social infrastructure projects will bolster employment and contribute to improvements in productivity.
  • The continued recruitment of immigrants from off-shore, the expansion of training for the skilled trades, and initiatives to increase retention levels in the public school system, such as support for off-campus high-school programs and adult education programs, will enhance employment and productivity growth.
  • Ongoing investments in infrastructure by all levels of government plus private-sector initiatives that are in the works should help ensure that small business growth and job creation prospects are further improved in the coming months.

Like the rest of Canada and the world, Manitoba has challenges ahead, but we are better positioned to weather the storm than are most.

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