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Quebec and Ontario Economic News

Quebec lost 18,000 jobs in March

April 5, 2024
Florence Jean-Jacobs
Principal Economist


  • The net loss of 18,000 jobs in March pushed the unemployment rate to 5.0%, up from 4.7% in February.
  • Annual average hourly wage growth jumped to 4.6% in March. This is much higher than in February (3.3%) and higher than inflation in Quebec for the first quarter to date (3.3% in both January and February).
  • The annual growth in Quebec's working-age population reached a record high (2.1%), while employment continued to stall (graph). As a result, the employment rate fell to 61.3% in March, its lowest level since June 2022.
  • Hours worked remained relatively stable (+0.6% compared to March 2023).
  • Both full-time and part-time employment decreased (-12,600 and -5,400 respectively).


Falling employment among young people aged 15-24 accounted for nearly two-thirds of the jobs lost in March. Youth unemployment is rising across the country, particularly among students. This may partly explain the rise in average hourly wages—young people typically have lower pay, which drags the average down.

Few sectors were spared from job losses (table). For the accommodation and food services sector, February's gains were almost entirely erased in March. Wholesale and retail trade, which is sensitive to consumer sentiment, posted its second straight month of losses. The manufacturing sector followed suit. 


We expected the labour market to be affected by the economic contraction, but March's employment decline was especially pronounced. The first quarter is ending with a net loss of 16,700 jobs, after a lacklustre performance in Q4 2023 (-1,900).

Even so, Quebec's unemployment rate is the lowest among the provinces, on par with Manitoba and well below the national average (6.1%).  

This morning's employment numbers show no sign of improvement in the short term, and we expect the second quarter will be equally gloomy, in terms of Quebec's economic activity (see our most recent forecasts). Nevertheless, business and consumer confidence improved slightly in the first quarter. Slowing inflation and the prospect of mid-year interest rate cuts should lead to a more convincing labour market rebound, starting this summer. 

NOTE TO READERS: The letters k, M and B are used in texts, graphs and tables to refer to thousands, millions and billions respectively. IMPORTANT: This document is based on public information and may under no circumstances be used or construed as a commitment by Desjardins Group. While the information provided has been determined on the basis of data obtained from sources that are deemed to be reliable, Desjardins Group in no way warrants that the information is accurate or complete. The document is provided solely for information purposes and does not constitute an offer or solicitation for purchase or sale. Desjardins Group takes no responsibility for the consequences of any decision whatsoever made on the basis of the data contained herein and does not hereby undertake to provide any advice, notably in the area of investment services. Data on prices and margins is provided for information purposes and may be modified at any time based on such factors as market conditions. The past performances and projections expressed herein are no guarantee of future performance. Unless otherwise indicated, the opinions and forecasts contained herein are those of the document’s authors and do not represent the opinions of any other person or the official position of Desjardins Group.