OTTAWA — Canada's job growth was almost five times stronger than expected last month.
Statistics Canada on Friday said there were 69,200 additional people working in January, much more than the 15,000 in job gains economists had been predicting.
The unemployment rate rose to 7.8 per cent from 7.6 per cent in December, as more people joined the job hunt. Economists had expected the jobless rate to remain the same.
The unexpectedly high rate of job gains for January means the labour market has gained back all the positions lost during the recession, and then some. Recent revisions to the data had put the job count down 30,000 from before the downturn, despite previous data showing all recession-related job losses had been recovered.
"Canadian employment came flying out of the chute to start 2011, posting a whopping rise of 69,200 jobs in January, with gains spread evenly across sectors and job types," said Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist with BMO Capital Markets.
Porter said the January jobs report "reinforces the point that the economy regained momentum around the turn of the year."
Full-time workers were up 31,100 in January and part-timers were ahead 38,000.
Private-sector employment grew by 22,700 people, public-sector work was up 26,400 and 20,100 more people were self-employed.
There was, however, a disproportionate number of job gains among women 25 and older, who saw gains of 55,400.
Some of the industries for which employment grew included public administration, agriculture and specialized-service occupations. Declines were seen in transportation and warehousing, and accommodation and food services. Manufacturing job numbers were essentially flat, despite fears it would lose ground after seeing exceptionally high growth of 66,000 in December.
Notable employment gains were seen in Ontario and Alberta, though there were declines in British Columbia and New Brunswick.
Porter noted that a rise of 106,400 in the number of people seeking work — which pushed the unemployment rate higher — was one of the biggest gains on record.
Despite the impressive job numbers for January, some experts pointed out the economy remains challenged.
"The number of full-time jobs continues to sit about 100,000 positions short of its level prior to the downturn, while both the employment-to-population ratio and the labour-force participation rate remain under water by some one to two percentage points," said David Burleton, deputy chief economist with TD Economics. "Lastly, the jobless rate was plumbing the depths at about six per cent as recently as mid-2008."
Burleton said he expects job growth to moderate to a pace of about 15,000 to 20,000 a month for most of 2011, which should be enough to bring the jobless rate down to 7.3 per cent by year's end.
Unemployment rates by province in January:
Newfoundland and Labrador 12.4%
Prince Edward Island 11.3%
Nova Scotia 9.5%
New Brunswick 9.1%
British Columbia 8.2%
Source: Statistics Canada
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