06/29/2012 09:48 EDT | Updated 08/29/2012 05:12 EDT

Conference Board help-wanted index improves 1.1 percentage points in May

OTTAWA - The Conference Board of Canada says employment prospects continued to improve in Canada last month.

The Ottawa-based think-tank said Friday that its help-wanted index gained 1.1 percentage points in May.

That continued an upward trend that began late last year, but one that has weakened recently, partly due to a sizable decline in the index in March.

Meanwhile, the Conference Board said that despite the uncertainty created by the debt crisis in Europe, it expects the U.S. economic recovery to continue.

As a result, Canadian employers are likely to keep hiring, although a prudent pace, meaning that employment gains will be soft in the coming months.

"Based on the index, the Conference Board expects to see modest gains again in June, with an increase of only 2,000 jobs across Canada."

At the provincial level, seven help-wanted indexes posted gains in May, with Saskatchewan’s index showing the largest advance at 14.4 percentage points. Healthy gains were also recorded elsewhere in Western Canada.

Ontario’s index rose 4.8 points, its second consecutive increase, while the Newfoundland and Labrador index was up 5.4 points, the first gain for the province in three months.

Nova Scotia’s index rose a more modest 1.8 points.

Among the three provinces facing declines, Prince Edward Island’s index was down 4.7 points — its fifth consecutive drop – and New Brunswick’s index fell for the fourth consecutive month.

The largest decline — 6.6 points — was in Quebec, more than offsetting gains in the previous month.