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Payroll employment increased in January resulting in an upward trend for the fifth straight month, StatsCan data indicate.

The number of payroll employees rose 0.4% in the first month of the year (+71,100 employees), following a 0.3% increase in December.

“Overall payroll employment has generally trended upwards over the previous five months, resulting in cumulative gains of 275,400 (+1.6%),” StatsCan said.

Retail trade led the way, with payroll employment increasing by 1.1% to 22,700 — the first monthly increase for the sector since last September, StatsCan said.

Payroll employment in transportation and warehousing increased for the eighth consecutive month in January (+1.6%), with total gains in the sector increasing by 4.6% since last June to reach nearly 40,000 employees, StatsCan said.

Average weekly earnings rose 2.9% in the month, reaching $1,185. Growth in January was higher than in December (+2.6%) but lower than in November (+4.0%), StatsCan said. Growth in average weekly earnings can reflect a range of factors, it said, including changes in wages, composition of employment and hours worked.

In the goods-producing sector, average weekly wages increased by 5.8% in the month, with “robust gains” in utilities (+7.8% to $2,058), construction (+6.4% to $1,497) and forestry and logging (+6.2% to $1,348), StatsCan said.

In comparison, wages in the services-producing sector grew at a slower pace.

“Stronger gains in real estate and rental and leasing (+8.9% to $1,293) and finance and insurance (+8.8% to $1,634) were tempered by slower growth in public administration (+1.4% to $1,512) and a decline in retail trade (-1.7% to $682),” StatsCan said.

It also noted that job vacancies increased by 3.4% in the month (883,200), after a general downward trend from June to December of last year. In January, vacancies in transportation and warehousing were greatest (+14,500), followed by health care and social assistance (+12,400).

However, the job vacancy rate was flat compared to the previous month. This measure, which corresponds to the number of vacant positions as a proportion of total labour demand (the sum of filled and vacant positions), was 4.9% — little changed from December.

There was an average of 1.2 unemployed persons for every job vacancy in January, which is virtually unchanged since August 2022, StatsCan said.