Scotiabank Nowcast: Employment Gains Continued Prior to Omicron Spread, Q4-2021 GDP at 6.22%
This note is part of a series that will be published after important data releases, documenting mechanical updates of the nowcast for Canadian GDP coming from the Scotiabank nowcasting model. The evolution of this nowcast will inform Scotiabank Economics’ official macroeconomic outlook.
- The Canadian labour market continued to power ahead in December according to Statistics Canada’s labour force survey (LFS), with the net gain of +55K jobs for the month that brought the unemployment rate down to 5.9%, just 0.2 ppts above the level of February 2020. This bodes well for the overall Canadian GDP growth in December and is in line with our Q4-2021 estimate of +6.22% Q/Q SAAR.
- The timing of the survey (December 5 to 11) means that it largely missed the beginning of the spread of the Omicron variant and the late-December tightening in public health measures that occurred in response to it. The flooding in BC, a source of downside risk to the short term outlook, occurred after the LFS was completed in November. In December, however, the LFS picked up the beginning of the reconstruction phase, according to StatCan. As a result, we are not likely to find out the true impact of this disaster on the labour market until the November survey of employment, payrolls and hours (SEPH) is released in late January.
- With these caveats, the underlying picture of the labour market in Canada is one of continuing recovery. The ratio of employment to population (61.5%), the labour force participation rate (65.3%), the unemployment rate (5.9%) are all within 0.2– 0.3 ppts of their respective February 2020 levels, signalling a rapid diminishing of the labour market slack. Even the ranks of those unemployed for 52 weeks or longer, while still significantly elevated at 293K (Feb 2020: 179K), continued to fall rapidly in December.
- The tightness in the labour market spurred a recovery in wages, which grew 2.7% y/y in December, although this increase was much weaker than the rate of inflation over the same period. While the spread of the Omicron variant will likely lead to short term weakness in employment, in particular in the high-contact industries that are subject to public health restrictions, it is already exacerbating labour shortages in essential services as scores of employees self-isolate having tested positive for the virus.
- With inflation running significantly above the Bank of Canada’s inflation-control target range, the labour market slack essentially gone and wages picking up, the short term impact of the Omicron spread is unlikely to alter the Bank of Canada on its path to higher rates in 2022.
Source: Scotiabank Global Economics