Canada’s labour market posted a mammoth job gain in March as second-wave reopenings lifted rehiring.
Nationally, employment surged by 303,000 persons (or 1.6%), marking the largest single gain since September. The gap from pre-pandemic employment levels narrowed to 1.5%. Less stringent lockdown conditions, specifically in Ontario, were a significant driver of the increase. The unemployment rate fell to 7.5% from 8.2%, marking the lowest level since the pandemic commenced.
That said, March figures are stale. The third wave has hit hard and fast, triggering stay-at-home orders in Ontario and stricter curfews in Quebec. Alberta and B.C. have tightened measures. Given variant spread, it is possible that more stringent measures will be enacted. A partial rollback in April employment numbers is all but certain.
B.C. added jobs at a strong pace in March and outperformed the broader trend. Total employment rose 1.3% (35,000 persons) during the latest month to 2.66 million persons. Despite troubling COVID-19 case count trends, this was an 11th straight monthly gain as public health restrictions have remained relatively modest compared with provincial peers. Employment has fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels, exceeding February 2020 by 0.8%.