Payroll employment declined in May even as worker vacancies remain elevated, according to new data from Statistics Canada.

The national statistical agency reported that payroll employment decreased by 26,100 in May, the first decline since May 2021.

The bulk of the decline (20,600) came in the goods sector, but service sector employment dipped too.

The construction sector led the way, as employment in that industry decreased by 17,500 in May.

StatsCan reported that the decline in employment came as there remained more than 1 million vacant jobs in May, which was essentially unchanged from the previous month’s record highs. Vacancies are up by 42.5% from May 2021, it noted.

The combination of filled and vacant jobs, which represents the total demand for labour, also hit a record high of nearly 17.5 million in May, StatsCan said, noting that total demand is up 8.5% on a year-over-year basis.

Amid rising demand for workers, wages are also rising, although they continue to lag inflation.

Average weekly earnings were up 2.5% on an annual basis in May, whereas consumer inflation rose at a 7.7% rate, StatsCan reported.