May sees labour force hit record high, with investment rising modestly: OCS

A recent economic report by the Ontario Construction Secretariat revealed that both the employment and labour force increased from April to May, with the labour force reaching a record high.

According to the report, the unemployment rate decreased from 6.2 per cent to 4.6  per cent. Total ICI building construction investment was up 4.7 per cent compared to March.

In terms of employment, it increased from 590.9 thousand to 612.6 thousand from April to May, which was larger than the figure from May 2022 (591.9 thousand). The labour force grew from 630.1 thousand to a record high of 641.9 thousand and surpassed the previous record of 634.6 thousand from August 2022.

Photo courtesy of the Ontario Construction Secretariat

The report noted that despite the record high labour force, employment increased enough for the unemployment rate to decrease from 6.2 per cent to 4.6 per cent. While this was higher than the unemployment rate from May 2022, it was below the overall Ontario unemployment rate, which increased from 4.9 per cent to 5.9 per cent.

According to the report, this is the first time since December 2022 that the construction unemployment rate dipped back under the overall Ontario unemployment rate.

Total ICI investment in building construction also increased by 4.7 per cent from March to April, according to the report. Commercial building investment increased 5.7 per cent, industrial investment grew 4.8 per cent and institutional investment rose 1.9 per cent.

The report also noted that while both commercial and industrial building investment reached record highs when measured by current dollars, this was not the case when accounting for inflation.

When measured in constant 2012 dollars, April 2023 commercial building investment was higher than previous months, all the back to January 2022, according to the report. This, however, was lower than the levels seen throughout most of 2021 and well below the record high of $1 billion in August 2020.

Industrial building construction investment was the highest since December 2019 and the disparity between the record high ($348.8 million in September 2018) was also smaller, according to the report.

Total investment in ICI building construction was up about 15 per cent compared to the same time last year, with the industrial sector experiencing the largest percentage change.

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