Canada's economy added 31,000 jobs last month, well down from September's pace of gains and below what economists were expecting but enough to push the jobless rate down by two ticks to 6.7 per cent.
Statistics Canada reported Friday that the jobs number only expanded by 0.2 per cent in October.
The retail sector added 72,000 jobs, while the accommodation and food services sector continues to lose them, shedding another 27,000 jobs during the month. Those sectors have been hardest hit by the pandemic because of their reliance on in-person contact, and they continue to be volatile.
While overall, Canada's economy has more jobs than it did before the pandemic started in 2020, the numbers show that the employment recovery is uneven and running out of steam.
Canada's economy back to pre-pandemic employment level
The job gains for October are well shy of those seen in September, and they were also far less than the 531,000 jobs the U.S. economy added during the same period.
Economist Doug Porter with the Bank of Montreal noted that five of Canada's 10 provinces managed to grind out a job gain during the month, but most of the new positions came from Ontario, up 37,000, and B.C., which added 10,000.
"On the other side, the weakest provinces were the two most challenged by the fourth wave and related restrictions — Saskatchewan, which lost 6,500 jobs, and Alberta, which lost 9,000," he said.
The data agency also says there is a large and persistent cohort of people who are what's known as long-term unemployed, meaning they haven't had a job for more than half a year.
That number held steady at 378,000 people in October. That's down from a peak of 486,000 in the middle of the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic in April, but still enough that it means more than one quarter of the jobless people in Canada are now considered long-term unemployed.
Before the pandemic, only 15 per cent of jobless workers stayed that way for more than half a year.
The jobless rate went down to 6.7 per cent, an improvement of 0.2 percentage points from September's level, but still well above the 5.7 per cent it was in February 2020, before COVID-19.
Porter said while the numbers for October were certainly nothing special, he was heartened to see the data finally starting to return to some level of normalcy.
"In many ways, this is the most normal employment report we have seen since the pandemic began, with job gains roughly in line with the 2019 trend," he said. "Given the wildness of the prior 18 months, no one is complaining about ho-hum."