Canadian Unemployment Rate Falls, Potential Set Up For Further Rate Hikes

The Canadian economy continues to defy gravity, at least from the view of headline data. Statistics Canada (Stat Can) released its latest Labor Force Survey (LFS) showing the unemployment rate fell in January. Experts warn it doesn’t tell the whole story, but it may be enough to drive expectations. If Canada continues to produce such positive headline data, analysts see something that was thought unthinkable until last week—further interest rate hikes. 

Canadian Unemployment Falls For The First Time Since 2022

Canada’s economy has been outperforming expectations and employment was not an exception. The unemployment rate dropped 0.1 points to 5.7% in January. It was the first decline for the rate since December 2022, which shouldn’t surprise with GDP data coming in much higher than expected. However, some economists are warning the headlines are better than the data. 

“…the headline figures mask weakness in the details. For the second month running, job gains were all part-time and mostly in the public sector, while more discouraged job hunters left the labor force,” explains Tony Stillo, a Director at Oxford Economics. 

More Working Aged Canadians Are Being Excluded From The Data

The participation rate highlights Stillo’s point regarding discouraged workers. The rate measures the share of the workforce that’s ready, willing, able, and employed or actively seeking work. It fell 0.2% to 65.3% in January, and has fallen 0.4 points from last year. That’s nearly 500k more people excluded from the unemployment rate. 

Participation rates aren’t just discouraged workers, they include people that can’t work for various reasons. It can be due to school, family care, retirement, illness, disability, traveling, volunteering, etc.. Virtually any reason that presents a commitment that could impede on one’s ability to search for work, preventing that person from being considered unemployed. 

Great for positive data. Canada’s population is growing much faster than the country is creating jobs, but a large portion of that growth are international students. Despite the country repeatedly citing these students as filling an essential part of the workforce, if they can’t actually find a job—tough luck. They aren’t considered unemployed officially. 

Canada’s Positive Headline Data May Drive Rates Higher

The latest employment data revealed a stronger-than-expected economy. While there are caveats with those numbers, they simply aren’t a driving factor when it comes to policy. Stillo’s team sees the positive data as more of an exception than something he expects to continue in the near-term. 

“Today’s job report suggests a firmer economy to start 2024, but we continue to expect the labour market will weaken in H1 as hiring falters and layoffs mount as households cut spending during a deepening recession,” he explains. 

Despite those students not counted as unemployed, post graduation they will be. Stillo sees this contributing further to the unemployment rate, pushing it towards the 7.5% range later this year. 

A Canadian recession that blows up the job market and leads to rate cuts has become virtually a consensus at this point. That might not be the case if positive headline data continues to drive the narrative though. Stillo believes continued outperformance may actually drive a completely different outcome. 

“However, in contrast to our baseline recession forecast, our modeling of a soft-landing scenario as expected by the BoC would result in continued labour market strength, higher inflation and likely prompt it to resume hiking, potentially lifting the policy rate to 5.5% by mid-year,” he warns. 

More bluntly put, the negative outcome is still a certainty. How the country gets there is the mystery.



We encourage you to have a civil discussion. Note that reads "civil," which means don't act like jerks to each other. Still unclear? No name-calling, racism, or hate speech. Seriously, you're adults – act like it.

Any comments that violates these simple rules, will be removed promptly – along with your full comment history. Oh yeah, you'll also lose further commenting privileges. So if your comments disappear, it's not because the illuminati is screening you because they hate the truth, it's because you violated our simple rules.

  • Duddly-Do-Right 2 months ago

    Raise the rates. The RE market is going bonanza again and the only way to stop it is by raising rates! It is baloney when BOC states that it cannot fix the housing market. YES IT CAN by raising rates to finally flush out the investors for good! Too much speculation still happening with investors gobbling up houses to rent out. It still beats the stock market!! The gov needs to incentivize OTHER forms of investment than RE like small businesses. There is no hope left for future generations of BOC let’s the RE freight train run full speed ahead again and it has a pretty good start already and spring is not even here….

  • Andrew Baldwin 2 months ago

    The thrust of Daniel’s report seemed to be that other people might think this jobs report justified the Bank of Canada looking at another rate hike. It’s not something he believes himself. As he says, the numbers are really distorted when we have so many overseas students in Canada and they are not counted as unemployed if they can’t find a job. So it could be just such unemployment among international students that is driving part of the drop in the participation rate from 65.5% to 65.3%. For some reason, StatCan doesn’t publish and perhaps doesn’t calculate seasonally adjusted estimates for its supplementary unemployment rates. However, the R5 measure, which includes discouraged workers, jumped from 5.5% in January 2023 to 6.2% in January 2024. This doesn’t really suggest that we have a red-hot jobs market, does it?
    The annualized growth in the working age population from December to January was 4.7%, up from 2.7% in December. So January growth in real GDP has to hit this rate (it won’t, of course) just to avoid a drop in real GDP per capita using the working age population as the population number. This is the largest percentage increase in the working age population for at least the period from 1997 forward and perhaps for as long as we have had the LFS.

  • Biff Boffo 2 months ago

    I have an idea, why don’t we all work for the government.

    So this misleading headline is just click bait.

  • [email protected] 2 months ago

    Our estimates have been higher rates than 12% for many years,

    Going back to late 1980s and early 1990s in terms of risk

    How many will still have a job down the road?

Comments are closed.