The May 2020 Canada employment report

  • Prior was -1993.8K
  • Unemployment rate 13.7% vs 15.0% expected (highest on record)
  • Prior unemployment rate 13.0%


  • Full time +219K vs -1472K prior
  • Part time +70.3K vs -521K prior
  • Participation rate 61.4% vs 59.8% exp
  • Prior participation rate 59.8% (65.5% pre-COVID)
  • Hourly wage rate permanent employees +10.0% vs +10.5% exp
  • Survey reflects labour market conditions as of the week of May 10 to May 16
  • The number of Canadians who wanted to work but did not look for a job remained high in May, falling from 1.5 million in April to 1.4 million
  • Including the group who wanted to work but were not looking for work-without distinguishing how recently they last worked-would result in an adjusted unemployment rate of 19.6% in May, unchanged from April.
  • Underutilization rate 34.8% vs 36.6% prior
  • 22.5% live in a household reporting difficulty meeting immediate financial obligations, up slightly from April at 21.1%
  • Overall share of employed Canadians who were concerned about job loss fell 5.6 percentage points to 10.8%
  • Full report

The rise in the participation rate combined with better-than-expected unemployment is a great sign, at least at first blush.

The rise in jobs likely reflects the government's wage subsidy program. It allowed companies to re-hire workers with a massive wage subsidy.

If you dig into the numbers, it's all good news. In particular, the biggest jump in employment came in Quebec, which reopened in May.