Ontario sheds 59,300 part-time jobs in January as new $14 minimum wage begins

Ontario shed some 59,300 part-time jobs in January as the province implemented a $2.40 cent minimum wage hike at the start of the month.

Ontario Economic Development Minister Steven Del Duca denies wage hike behind job losses

Ontario shed some 59,300 part-time jobs in January as the province implemented a $2.40 cent minimum wage hike at the start of the month. (Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

Ontario shed some 59,300 part-time jobs in January — the same month the province hiked minimum wage some 20 per cent to $14 an hour, but experts say it may be too soon to know how much the two are correlated.

The province shed 50,900 jobs total from December 2017, according to the Statistics Canada report.

It gained approximately 8,500 full-time positions but lost roughly 59,300 part-time gigs, according to data provided by the
agency, which noted the figures are rounded. 

That means there was 3.4 per cent or 46,100 fewer part-time posts in January 2018 than the same time the previous year.

Some economists said it's possible Ontario's minimum wage increase played a role in those declines, but noted it's important not to read too much into one month of data. 
Ontario Economic Development Minister Steven Del Duca dismisses the suggestion that the part-time job losses were a result of the provincial government's minimum wage increase. (Steven Del Duca/Twitter)

Ontario Economic Development Minister Steven Del Duca dismissed the suggestion that the part-time job losses were a result of the provincial government's minimum wage increase.

"The numbers we've seen this month, as it relates to part-time employment, are part of a national trend," Del Duca told reporters on Friday.

"We see similar circumstances, numbers or trends in other parts of the country. We know we lead the country in growth. We know we have more work to do." 

Del Duca said "an honest day's work" should earn "an honest's day and a fair day's pay" and a decent minimum wage is critical to a good quality of life in the province.

"We see that this is a national trend taking place at this particular moment in time. We don't tend to look at month- by-month numbers in isolation. It's most important for us to look at the trend and the trend in Ontario is a good one. There is confidence here in this province," he said.

Economists divided on effect of wage hike

The province hiked minimum wage by $2.40 per hour to $14 per hour at the beginning of the year, a move some economists warned could result in mass job losses as employers look to reduce costs. Overall, economists are divided on how minimum wage increases play out. Some research has suggested a reduction in hours or jobs follow mandated wage bumps, while other studies suggest no long-term connection between wage increases and dips in employment rates. 
Ontario hiked minimum wage by some 20 per cent to $14 per hour at the beginning of the year, a move some economists said could result in mass job losses as employers look to reduce costs. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

The 59,000 figure is a "whopping" one, said Matthieu Arseneau, senior economist at National Bank Financial Markets, in a note.

It "may be a sign of adjustments made by corporations coping with a minimum wage surge," he said, noting young people ages 15 to 24 lost 24,000 part-time positions.

However, economists also pointed to possible connections between Ontario's minimum wage and Canada's stronger average wage growth of 3.3 per cent in January.

"One of the positives in today's release was the fact that wage growth picked up, said Craig Alexander, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada.

"Now part of that might be reflecting the increase in minimum wages in Ontario because that increase in minimum wage is impacting more than 20 per cent of all the workers in Ontario."

Ontario's minimum wage to rise to $15 in 2019

The board's modelling suggests the increase will reduce the number of jobs created in Ontario this year by roughly 40,000.

Ontario's mandatory minimum hourly rate is set for another bump in January 2019, when it will rise to $15.

The province of British Columbia announced Thursday it too plans to raise rates for its lowest paid employees over several years.

It aims to reach at least $15.20 by June 2021. Its current minimum wage is set at $11.35 and will rise every June, starting this year when it moves to $12.65, until it reaches at least $15.20.

Some have already criticized the increase as being too fast, noting it may be difficult for small business owners to adapt to the increased labour costs.

With files from CBC News