Hiring surged at North American companies in April, reminding investors the economic recovery continues to build underneath the wild swings in commodity markets.
Canada added 58,000 jobs in April, bringing the unemployment rate down 0.1 percentage point to 7.6% and returning fulltime employment to the level of October 2008 for the first time, Statistics Canada said Friday.
Perhaps more encouraging were figures from the United States. Employers there added 244,000 workers to their payrolls, the biggest increase in 11 months and trouncing expectations for a rise of 186,000. Private-sector hiring led the charge, as companies created 268,000 new jobs, the most in five years.
"The U.S. labour market continues to strengthen, greatly allaying recent concerns about a slowing economic recovery," said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.
It was a relief after a volatile week that had the price of oil plunge 12%, silver collapse 27%, copper fall 6% and gold slide 4.5%.
Markets stabilized on Friday, with the S&P/TSX rising 111 points to 13,567 and the Dow Jones industrial average up 55 at 12,639.
The ongoing improvement in the Canadian labour market means the Bank of Canada is still likely to resume raising interest rates in the second half of the year barring a commodity drop so sharp it destabilizes the global outlook, economists said.
"I would say that on balance the employment numbers would have a bigger effect on the bank's decisionmaking," said Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist with BMO Capital Markets. "They can't be whipsawed by weekto-week news in commodity prices."
He added while commodity prices are not as high as they were just a short week ago, they are still up in general this year, and oil prices at around US$100 a barrel are still quite encouraging for most Canadian oil companies.
It would take a serious and ongoing dip in the commodity market to influence Canada's central bank, Mr. Porter said.
"If the deep downdraft is being driven by real concerns about the United States and the global outlook, then I think the bank would deeply reconsider the need for any further rate moves," he said. "I guess if we drop back below where we were at the start of the year, the bank would probably take that into account, and we were around US$90 [per barrel] at the start of the year," Mr. Porter said with respect to oil prices.
On the other hand, Derek Holt, an economist with Scotia Capital Markets, said while the jobs numbers are solid, the recent correction in the commodities market may already be enough to influence the bank.
"I think that gets bigger weighting," he said, adding "I think [the bank's] on hold for quite some time. Our call remains that they're on hold until October -so, later than the consensus."
But Dawn Desjardins, assistant chief economist for RBC Economics, agreed with Mr. Porter that only a drop in commodity prices that destablized the outlook for the global economy would influence the Bank's reasoning and she does not see the recent "gyrations" as sufficient.
"From the Bank's perspective, I think they try to look though the noise, as we all do," she said.
Ms. Desjardins expects to see the interest rate hiked 0.25 of a percentage point in July and said the employment report substantiates the view that the trend is toward growth.
Thursday's job numbers were also noteworthy for the fact that 41,000 of the new jobs were part-time and the total number of hours worked remained 0.6% below the October 2008 level.
"There's been a less than handy recovery in hours worked, which is to say there's greater slack in the economy than that represented by the number of jobs," said Stewart Hall, economist at HSBC
Securities, who nonetheless still expects a rate hike of 25 basis points in July.
Other notable numbers from Friday's labour force survey:
- The part-time trend was reflected in Ontario, which posted a gain of 55,000 jobs, 46,000 of which were part-time.
- Newfoundland and Labrador was the only other province to show a significant gain, picking up 3,100 jobs.
- Meanwhile, employment dropped in Nova Scotia and Manitoba -down 5,500 and 3,300 jobs, respectively -and the rest of the provinces avoided significant drops or gains.
- Compared with April 2010, Canada's employment increased by 283,000, a gain of 1.7%.
- The service sector led the way with the creation of 36,000 new jobs while employment in both
construction and manufacturing held steady in April.