Just 121,000 more Canadians found jobs in 2014 and the number of people in the workforce has fallen to the lowest level in 14 years, according to Statistics Canada.
That’s because the growth in the number of Canadians of working age, which rose 1.1 per cent, outstripped the growth of jobs in the economy, which grew by 0.7 per cent.
The labour participation rate, a key measure of whether Canadians are working or looking for work, fell 0.6 percentage points to 65.7 per cent in December 2014 — the lowest since 2000.
Part of the decline is due to an aging population, as Canadians over 55 are less likely to participate in the workforce.
But a low labour participation rate also indicates many Canadians have lost confidence they can find work. Youth unemployment remains stubbornly high.
Compared with December 2013, full-time employment increased by 158,000 jobs, while part-time employment didn't change much. The total number of hours worked increased by 0.6 per cent over the period. That's the lowest level since 2009.
Asked in question period in the House of Commons on Wednesday whether the economy was performing as expected in light of the revised numbers, Finance Minister Joe Oliver defended the government's record.
"Well, there’s some statistical revision, and you know, the point is we’ve still – we’ve still created almost 1.2 million net new jobs. Individual months vary — I’ve said that constantly. The trend is positive," Oliver said.
Jobs 'vanishing before our eyes'
Employment growth in the year was concentrated among men 25 and older. Most new employment was in the private sector, with little change from the previous year in the number of public-sector and self-employed workers.
Employment grew in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario in 2014, but declined in Newfoundland and Labrador as well as New Brunswick.
At the end of the year, the unemployment rate was 6.7 per cent, down 0.5 percentage points from December 2013 — revised from the previous estimate of 6.6 per cent unemployment.
Statistics Canada also revised its estimate of the number of jobs created last year downward by 65,000 jobs, from 186,000 to 121,000.
“We’re talking about one third of the jobs that we gained in 2014 just vanishing before our eyes. So the outlook for 2015 doesn’t look too great in terms of employment,” said CIBC economist Nick Exarhos.
He said the magnitude of Statistics Canada’s change makes the Bank of Canada’s decision to cut rates “slightly less surprising.”