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Economic News

Quebec’s Job Market Levels Off in January

February 9, 2024
Florence Jean-Jacobs
Principal Economist


  • Quebec employment edged down in January (-7,500), due to a steep decline in part-time work that outpaced gains in full-time jobs (see table).
  • The reduction in the number of people looking for work brought unemployment down 0.2 points to 4.5% in January.
  • The employment rate dropped sharply over the past year (from 62.5% to 61.6%) due to a combination of flat employment and solid growth in the population aged 15 and older (+1.9%).
  • The participation rate (64.5% in January) has plunged to its lowest since October 2022, as the labour force shrunk considerably (-20,400 people month-on-month). This is the biggest slump in participation since January 2022 (-41,800).
  • Hours worked continued to flag (-0.6% compared to January 2023), even though teachers went back to work in January. Average hourly wage growth slid once more, from 3.6% in December to 3.3% in January on a year-over-year basis.


Although the strike in the public sector reduced the number of hours worked in December compared to the year before, we expected the end of the strike to push the numbers back up in January. That was not the case.

Construction, health care, and accommodation and food services posted the biggest job losses in January (table). But wholesale and retail trade wiped out their losses from the previous month, as did educational services. 


After decelerating in the fourth quarter of 2023, the job market continued to slow in January. The private sector has lost 16,400 jobs over the past 6 months, compared to gains in the public sector (+52,500).

We'll need to keep a close watch on participation and employment rates in 2024. A growing number of people have left the job market in recent months, even though the working-age population is rapidly increasing. On a month-on-month basis, it grew by a record 0.24%, a rate not seen since this data started being collected in 1976. This is the first time in 16 months that annual labour force growth fell below that of the working age population. And, over the past 3 months, annual employment growth hasn't kept up with the increase in the population aged 15 and older (graph). 

All told, the January print has confirmed that Quebec's economy is losing momentum. We expect this trend to last for another few months, but the province will likely be spared a severe recession (see our most recent forecasts xternal link.).

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