Canada added 79,000 jobs last month, blowing past expectations and pushing the jobless rate to its lowest level since 1976.
The jobless rate was pushed down two-tenths of a percentage point to 5.7 per cent, Statistics Canada reported Friday.
That's the lowest on record since comparable data became available 42 years ago.
Economists polled by Bloomberg were expecting a flat showing, with about 2,000 jobs added. Every province added jobs during the month, but more than half of the new jobs came in Alberta and Quebec, with each adding more than 26,000 jobs.
"Quebec was probably the most compelling story throughout the year, with job growth running strong and the unemployment rate plunging to a record low [of 4.9 per cent]," Bank of Montreal economist Robert Kavcic noted in a report to clients.
The loonie jumped on Friday's news, gaining almost three-quarters of a cent to change hands at 80.74 cents US shortly after the numbers came out at 8:30 a.m. eastern time. The strength of the report also prompted investors to peg the odds of a rate hike from the Bank of Canada this month at about 70 per cent. Before the jobs report, a hike was being given less than 50/50 odds.
December's numbers bring a close to the data for 2017 as a whole, which ended up being Canada's best year for jobs since 2002, with 423,000 jobs added.
Most of the jobs added in December were part time, but for the year as a whole, the vast majority — 394,000 — were full time.
Scotiabank economist Derek Holt called the numbers "another ridiculously strong employment report that is marked by over 150,000 new jobs in two months," singling out strength in both full-time work and also private sector jobs.
"The job market is absolutely booming north of the border," Holt told his American readers.