Canada Faces Economic Crossroads: Unemployment Soars Amid Rising Inflation

Canada Faces Economic Crossroads: Unemployment Soars Amid Rising Inflation

Jane Park
3 min read

Canadian Unemployment and Inflation Rates Rise, Signaling Stagflation Concerns

In June 2024, the Canadian job market experienced a notable slowdown, with the unemployment rate rising to 6.4% from May's 6.2%. This increase represents the highest unemployment rate since January 2022. The rise comes as the Canadian economy shed 1,400 jobs, indicating a stalling labor market. This situation has led to increased speculation about potential interest rate cuts by the Bank of Canada (BoC) at its upcoming decision on July 24.

The job losses in June were primarily driven by declines in full-time positions, which fell by 3,400, while part-time jobs saw a modest increase of 1,900. Specific sectors like transportation and warehousing experienced significant job reductions, losing 11,700 positions, followed by a drop of 8,800 jobs in public administration. In contrast, the accommodation and food services sector saw a substantial gain of 17,200 jobs, and the agricultural sector added 12,300 jobs.

Adding to the economic challenges, Canada's annual inflation rate rose to 2.9% in May, up from 2.7% in April. This increase, contrary to economists' expectations of a decrease to 2.6%, was driven by higher costs in transportation, food, and health and personal care. The unexpected rise in inflation has complicated the outlook for an interest rate cut, with market bets on a July rate reduction dropping from 65% to 54%.

Key Takeaways

  • Unemployment Increase: The unemployment rate climbed to 6.4% in June, the highest in over two years, due to the economy losing 1,400 jobs.
  • Sectoral Job Changes: Significant job losses occurred in transportation and warehousing, and public administration, while gains were noted in accommodation, food services, and agriculture.
  • Inflation Rise: Inflation increased to 2.9% in May, driven by higher costs in transportation, food, and health and personal care, complicating the prospects for further interest rate cuts.
  • Interest Rate Speculation: The rise in unemployment and inflation has led to mixed expectations about the Bank of Canada's potential interest rate decisions.


The concurrent rise in unemployment and inflation suggests that Canada may be entering a period of stagflation, where economic stagnation is accompanied by rising prices. This scenario presents a significant challenge for policymakers. On one hand, the increase in unemployment typically supports the case for interest rate cuts to stimulate economic activity. On the other hand, rising inflation argues for maintaining or even increasing interest rates to prevent the economy from overheating.

The Bank of Canada finds itself at a crossroads. With its key interest rate currently at 4.75%, following a cut from 5% earlier in the month, the central bank must balance the need to support a cooling labor market against the necessity to control inflation. The upcoming quarterly business outlook survey and the June inflation report, scheduled for release on July 14, will be critical in shaping the Bank's decision.

Experts like Leslie Preston from TD Bank and Doug Porter from BMO highlight that while the softening job market might increase the likelihood of a rate cut, persistent wage growth—average hourly wages rose by 5.4% year-over-year in June—could deter such a move. Additionally, the proportion of long-term unemployed individuals has increased, indicating deeper issues within the labor market that cannot be swiftly addressed by monetary policy alone.

Did You Know?

  • The concept of stagflation—simultaneous stagnation and inflation—was first widely recognized during the 1970s when many advanced economies faced similar economic conditions.
  • Long-term unemployment, defined as being jobless for 27 weeks or more, has increased to 17.6% of all unemployed Canadians in June, up four percentage points from a year earlier.
  • Despite overall job losses, the accommodation and food services sector added 17,200 jobs in June, reflecting a post-pandemic recovery in these areas as travel and dining out resume.
  • The Bank of Canada's next interest rate decision on July 24 will be closely watched, with two major data points—the business outlook survey and the June inflation report—expected to heavily influence the outcome.

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