Ottawa’s jobs picture ended 2013 with a sharp drop-off in the sector counting federal government employees even as the number of those in the high-tech field increased, Statistics Canada announced Friday.
There were 141,600 people working in the sector that includes federal workers – public administration – in December 2013. That’s a steep drop from the 163,100 measured in the same month a year earlier.
However, that came as the field measuring those in the high-tech sector – information and communication technology – increased. There were 56,200 people working in that field last month, up from 40,200 the year before.
The overall unemployment rate in Ottawa-Gatineau increased month-over-month, jumping to 6.2 per cent from 5.9 per cent in November. However, that’s still below the rate from December 2012, which measured 6.6 per cent.
The number of people working increased slightly, going to 696,800 from 694,300 in November. It went down year-over-year, falling from 716,500 the year before.
Other sectors to see a drop-off included finance, insurance, real estate and leasing (to 31,700 last month from 39,700 the year before) and construction (to 35,200 last month from 42,800 the year before).
Professional, scientific and technical services (75,400 from 85,800), health care and social assistance (88,200 from 77,800) and educational services (59,100 from 51,100) all saw increases.
The 25-to-54 age category saw the biggest change, falling to 501,100 this year from 521,000 the year before. The 15-to-24 age group experienced a slight decline, while the 55-and-over category increased to 106,000 from 103,500.
The month-over-month unemployment rate increased on both sides of the Ottawa River.
In Ottawa it jumped to 5.9 per cent from 5.7 per cent in November, while in Gatineau it increased to 6.9 per cent from 6.4 per cent the month before.
Nationally the Canadian economy lost a surprising 45,900 jobs in December to finish the weakest year of job growth since 2009, raising concerns about how the economy will fare into 2014.
The unemployment rate rose to 7.2 per cent for the final month of the year, compared with 6.9 per cent in November.
BMO Capital Markets chief economist Doug Porter said the dismal jobs data will add pressure to the loonie and stoke chatter about the possibility of a interest rate cut by the Bank of Canada.
The loonie fell half a cent to 91.65 cents US, its lowest level since mid-2009, following the jobs report Friday.
Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz has suggested that the central bank's next policy move is just as likely to be a cut in interest rates as a hike.
However Mr. Porter suggested it will likely take more than one month of disappointing job growth to trigger a rate cut.
“We continue to believe the bank will need to see an extended period of economic underperformance and even lower inflation before they would even consider easing,” he said.
The December drop, the biggest since March 2013, was led by a decline in full-time jobs, which fell by roughly 60,000. That loss was offset in part by a gain of 14,200 part-time jobs.
Economists had expected the economy to add 14,600 jobs and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 6.9 per cent, according to estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.
The weaker than expected report in Canada came as the U.S. also released disappointing job growth numbers.
The country's biggest trading partner added just 74,000 jobs in December after averaging 214,000 in the previous four months. The U.S. Labor Department also said Friday that the unemployment rate fell to 6.7 per cent from seven per cent in November as many Americans stopped looking for jobs.
The December jobs report capped a week of generally soft Canadian economic data. Statistics Canada reported earlier this week that Canada's trade deficit edged higher in November as imports inched up and exports stalled.
CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld noted the jobs numbers are volatile month to month, but said the December results were decidedly ugly.
“We are getting less surprised by surprises in this survey, which has had quite a lot of volatility in the past year or so, but obviously it is a disappointment in both Canada and the U.S.,” Mr. Shenfeld said.
However, Mr. Shenfeld noted that the fourth quarter started out with a fair bit of bit of momentum.
“Because we got off to a good start, the fourth quarter still looks reasonably healthy and so the issue really is: do we get a bounce back in January and February to help the first quarter numbers?”
For the month, Ontario and Alberta led the provinces lower with losses of 39,000 and 12,000 respectively. British Columbia added 13,000 jobs and Newfoundland and Labrador gained 1,900.
By industry, there were 19,000 fewer jobs in educational services, while the other services category, which includes personal care as well as civic and social organizations, lost 15,000. The agriculture sector lost 9,800 and natural resources lost 8,000.
Health care and social assistance was the only industry to see gains in December as the sector added 22,000 jobs.
–With files from The Canadian Press.