A new look at Canada's labour market reveals the first six months of 2012 has seen a big improvement in the quality of jobs that have been created — a surprise that was welcomed Thursday even though the trend likely won't last.
It is already known that Canada's economy churned out 155,000 new jobs in the first half of this year, more than economists had expected, the CIBC says in its latest report on employment quality.
But the bigger surprise is that most of those jobs have been of the full-time and high-paying variety.
That is a break from past CIBC reports on job quality, which have tended to show that a higher proportion of employment created since the 2008-09 recession has tended to be in the lower-paying services sector, or has been part-time or self-employment.
'An even more pleasant surprise is the quality of employment' —CIBC economist Benjamin Tal
The report cautions job quality is expected to fall back in the second half of this year, but for the moment there is something to celebrate in an overall glum economic landscape, said Benjamin Tal, CIBC's deputy chief economist.
"It was a pleasant surprise. We got 155,000 new jobs, but an even more pleasant surprise is the quality of employment, which we know has been trending downward," said Tal, author of the paper.
Full-time employment rose by 1.1 per cent during the first half, 10 times faster than part-time work.
And the number of employees rose by one per cent, as opposed to only a 0.1 per cent increase in self-employment, which tends to generate less than 80 per cent the income of paid employment.
Perhaps most critical, the number of employees in high-paying sectors rose at an even faster pace, by 1.6 per cent, more than double the growth in lower-paying sectors.
The combination of the three pushed the CIBC job quality index up 1.2 per cent to the highest level since the recession.
Tal said a big reason for the improvement is that the manufacturing sector added about 88,000 workers during the period, or more than half of the total.
"And it's not just because they're manufacturing. It's because they've been in high-paying manufacturing sectors," he added. "We're not getting jobs in textiles. It's really more in high-tech, heavy machinery, high-paying manufacturing."
Other sectors cited in the report were petroleum and coal manufacturing, oil and gas extraction, heavy and civil engineering construction and transportation equipment manufacturing.
Tal is not optimistic the trend will continue, particularly given the slowdown in the real estate market, which generates construction work, and in exports, also a source of high-paying jobs. As well, governments are scaling back on hiring and cutting back in some cases, particularly at the federal government.
Earlier this week, Statistics Canada reported that the country experienced a second consecutive monthly trade deficit in May, suggesting the global economic weakness was starting to impact Canada's exporters.
Regionally, the report shows British Columbia had the most marked improvement in the quality index. Close to 90 per cent of the jobs created in the province were full-time and in high-paying industries,
Ontario, while lagging in job creation, also had a strong advance in the quality index, driven by the four per cent increase in manufacturing employment.
Meanwhile, Quebec outpaced other provinces in terms of overall job creation, but most were in the services sector and job quality slipped slightly, the report found.