Employment growth, both as a confidence builder and through providing income advances, is a key driver of the economy.
Jobs statistics also serve as a barometer of what is happening in an industry and they provide advance indication of where future investment is most likely to occur.
This article, plus two more to follow, will focus on jobs numbers for both the U.S. and Canada in 18 industry subsectors. For both countries, the data is mainly derived from surveys of employers. The U.S. statistics come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For Canada, the information is sourced from the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH) carried out by Statistics Canada (Cansim Table 281-0023). CANSIM is StatCan’s online database.
Both countries utilize the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Highlighted in a box in each of the accompanying graphs is the percent change in jobs from July 2009, just after the Great Recession ended, to the present.
Building Materials and Supplies Dealers (Graphs 1A and 1B):
The deep trough in employment at U.S. retail outlets selling building materials (e.g., Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc.), caused by the global credit crisis, had no match in Canada. Firms in this sector are closely tied to residential groundbreakings and renovation activity. Canada’s housing market escaped the 2008-2009 downturn relatively unscathed, but new home starts have flattened of late, while they have been intermittently perking up south of the border. Since July 2009, jobs at building material and supply dealers are +11 in the U.S. and +8% in Canada.
Forestry and Logging (Graphs 2A and 2B):
As is the case with many of the charts featured in this article, the shapes of the curves in Graphs 2A and 2B are quite similar for both the U.S. and Canada. Employment in forestry and logging has been tailing off in both countries. The blows suffered by the homebuilding sector in the Great Recession had a devastating impact on employment in logging and forestry on both sides of the border. And there has been no evidence of recovery. Since July 2009, U.S. forestry and logging jobs have been even. In Canada, the jobs count has fallen -9%.
Hotels and Motels (Graphs 3A and 3B):
The shapes of the curves for U.S. and Canadian hotel/motel employment appear, once again, to be almost identical, with the exception that the number of jobs in the accommodation sector in the U.S. has shot past its previous peak, while in Canada, the prior summit level has yet to be equaled. Canada’s weaker currency should be a drawing card for foreign visitors. Nevertheless, since July 2009, the U.S. is +11% and Canada +4% for jobs in their hotel and motel sectors.
Solely Internet Retail Sellers (Graphs 4A and 4B):
In both countries, there have been pronounced climbs in the number of individuals working at firms primarily engaged in selling goods and services over the Internet. For builders, the implications are negative, since this type of retail activity takes away from potential bricks and mortar construction. Since July 2009, the number of employees at (solely) internet focused companies has more than doubled in the U.S. (+135%). In Canada (+89%), the rise has also been impressive. While the numbers of such workers are still small, their ranks are expanding quickly.
Retail (Net of Solely Internet) (Graphs 5A and 5B):
Despite the gains being made by online sales, the number of people working elsewhere in retail is still increasing, although more obviously in the U.S. than in Canada. But it’s in the U.S. that the latest store closings have been announced (Macy’s and Kmart). The U.S. ‘retail’ slope has a much sharper incline than in Canada largely due to the more severe drop-off six years ago. Since July 2009, the U.S. versus Canada percentage changes have been +9% and +3% respectively.
Architectural and Engineering (Graphs 6A and 6B):
Over the past six years, employment at U.S. design firms has been inching higher, but it is only now on par with where it was prior to the Great Recession. Still, the trend continues to head upward, which is encouraging. In Canada, the number of jobs at design firms never retreated to the same degree as in the U.S., but a rough patch is underway now. The dramatic drop in world commodity prices, and especially in the price of crude oil, has caused many contemplated capital-spending projects north of the border to be delayed or shelved. Since July 2009, employment in the sector in the U.S. is +11%. Surprisingly, Canada is still on the plus side, +7%.