Canada added 55,000 jobs in December, rounding out the year on a strong note, according to data released by Statistics Canada on Friday.
The entire gain in jobs occurred in full-time employment, which added 123,000 jobs, while part-time employment declined by 68,000.
While the unemployment rate remained at 5.9%, which is slightly elevated compared to before the pandemic, the adjusted unemployment rate, which refers to those who wanted a job but did not look for one, returned to the pre-pandemic level at 7.6%.
The labor force participation rate reached a record high among the core-aged population. Most of the gains occurred among core-aged men (63,000 jobs), while employment among core-aged women remained steady at a historic high since November.
The recovery is looking more and more even, with higher employment among indigenous Canadians and new immigrants than before the pandemic, and an increasing employment rate on a yearly basis for minorities.
These are groups that often experience higher unemployment rates and lower wages, and their gains are a reflection of a hot labor market that is now reaching them.
The goods-producing sector had a tough time throughout the pandemic while the service-producing sector flourished. While the overall number of jobs remains below the pre-pandemic level, the goods-producing sector finally had notable gains of 44,000 jobs as most restrictions were lifted in November and December. But as the omicron variant shuts down most of the country in January, this trend might be reversed.
But the job market might get even tighter in the next couple of months as more people test positive and isolate. Employers as a result will be competing for a potentially even smaller pool of workers, which will give workers more bargaining power.
The high number of COVID-19 cases will also have serious implications for the health of the workforce, given that many who get the virus experience symptoms long after becoming infected.
While the threats of the omicron variant remain, employers and workers are demonstrating resilience and resourcefulness in learning to live with COVID-19. The numbers point to an increasingly even recovery, with the economy this year possibly being the strongest in a long time for Canada.