Manitoba is being hailed as the new rising star on the regional job-creation front after the local economy created nearly 20,000 new jobs over the past year and posted the highest employment growth in the country.
Statistics Canada numbers released Friday show the Manitoba economy churned out 19,200 new jobs from March of last year to March of this year, for a year-over-year growth rate of 3.1 per cent.
That was more than triple the national average of 0.8 per cent, and it was more than a full percentage point higher than any other province. That kind of head-turning performance didn’t go unnoticed.
“First, we must praise the often overlooked, but now rising star on the regional labour-force map — Manitoba,” BMO Capital Markets senior economist Robert Kavcic said in a note to investors.
“Employment growth now leads the country at 3.1 per cent year-over-year, and the jobless rate (5.4 per cent) has moved a tick below Alberta,” Kavcic said. “Both the goods and services sectors are up more than three per cent in the past year.”
The Statistics Canada data also show Manitoba and Saskatchewan were the only two provinces to post significant job gains in March. The Manitoba economy generated 6,100 new jobs while Saskatchewan added 7,000.
The big gain drove down Manitoba’s unemployment rate to the second-lowest level in the country behind Saskatchewan’s 4.4 per cent. Alberta is now third at 5.5 per cent.
University of Manitoba economist John McCallum said he can’t recall the last time Manitoba created 19,200 new jobs or posted 3.1 per cent employment growth over a 12-month period.
McCallum said it’s also encouraging 16,200 of the new jobs created in the past year and 2,600 of the 6,100 new jobs added in March were full-time positions. That suggests a growing confidence among Manitoba businesses.
“The best job-creation and stimulus program there is is confidence. When you’re not so confident, you work your existing staff harder and pay them overtime. But when you start feeling better, you add part-time (workers) and then you add full-time (workers).”
Winnipeg Construction Association executive vice-president Ron Hambley said 2014 was the 13th straight year of increased construction activity in Manitoba, and industry officials are cautiously optimistic about the prospects for 2015.
Hambley noted a number of major hydro projects are getting underway, the RBC Convention Centre expansion continues, and work will soon begin on Winnipeg’s new south end water-treatment plant.
Canada’s economy saw a strong net gain of nearly 29,000 jobs in March, with the national unemployment rate remaining steady at 6.8 per cent. While most economists expected the jobless rate to remain unchanged, they didn’t expect any new jobs to be created.