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Canada's jobless rate rises to 5.7% in October as economy sees modest 18,000 job gain

Report suggests job prospects are continuing to dwindle

Canada's unemployment rate rose to 5.7% last month as job opportunities became less plentiful in an economy weighed down by high interest rates.

Statistics Canada released its October labour force survey Friday (Nov. 3), which showed the economy added a modest 18,000 jobs.

The gain was not enough to keep the unemployment rate from rising as the pace of job creation trails population growth.

Canada's unemployment rate was 5.5% in September.

October marks the fourth increase in the jobless rate over the past six months.

"While the headline job gain was uneventful, make no mistake that the underlying picture for Canada's labour market is softening," wrote Bank of Montreal chief economist Douglas Porter in a note to clients.

READ: Economy stayed flat in August, estimate suggests economy shrank in Q3

Employment rose last month in construction and information and culture and recreation, but the increase was offset by declines in wholesale and retail trade as well as manufacturing.

Wages continued to grow quickly, but the pace slowed last month compared to September, with average hourly wages up 4.8% to $34.08 from a year ago.

The Bank of Canada opted to hold its key interest rate steady at 5% during its last two decision meetings, largely due to growing evidence that the economy is feeling the impact of higher rates.

Gross domestic product data showed the economy shrank in the second quarter and a preliminary estimate from Statistics Canada suggests another contraction in the third quarter.

The labour market has remained relatively resilient since interest rates started to rise in March 2022 as employers maintained their appetite for hiring post-pandemic.

But job vacancies have been on the decline this year and Friday's report suggests job prospects are continuing to dwindle.

READ: Canada's annual inflation falls to 3.8% in September, grocery prices rise more slowly

Among those who were unemployed in September, a larger proportion stayed unemployed in October than 12 months prior, suggesting "job seekers are facing more difficulties finding employment than a year ago."

Employment opportunities are expected to become even more sparse as the effect of previous rate hikes increasingly filter through the economy.

During a Senate committee meeting this week, Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem said the central bank opted to hold rates steady in part because it is anticipating a wave of mortgage renewals will further cool the economy.

Canadians who are renewing their mortgages with higher interest rates are forced to cut back elsewhere, slowing spending on goods and services.

The Bank of Canada is hoping this pullback will slow inflation and bring it back to its two per cent target.

So far, inflation has fallen considerably from a peak of 8.1%, reaching 3.8% in September.

But higher borrowing costs are posing a new challenge to families, while the cost of necessities continues to climb rapidly.

In October, Statistics Canada says one in three Canadians reported living in a household that found it difficult or very difficult to meet its financial needs when it comes to transportation, housing, food, clothing and other necessary expenses over the previous four weeks.

While that figure is down slightly from a year ago, it's still up considerably from October 2020, when 20.4 per cent of Canadians reported the same thing.

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