The unemployment rate held steady in April at eight per cent as overall employment grew by a surprising 35,900 jobs, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Economists had been projecting overall employment to drop by about 50,000 last month.

The Canadian dollar saw a big jump in the wake of the jobs report. The loonie jumped 1.69 cents to close at 86.98 cents US.

The rise in the number of people working was the result of an increase in self-employment, the federal government agency said. Self-employment rose by 37,000 in April, while there was little in public- and private-sector employment.

"Normally during recessions what tends to happen is you get the layoffs and a lot of these individuals are involuntarily pushed into a self-employment situation," said TD Bank Financial Group economist Derek Burleton.

"So not quite as good because, obviously, there are some questions on the stability of the employment and how succesful these individuals will be," he said.

Statistics Canada said about 39,400 full-time jobs were added last month, while about 3,600 part-time jobs were lost. That is a reversal from past months, when full-time jobs were lost while there was some growth in part-time work.

The information, culture and recreation sector added 17,000 jobs, while 15,000 jobs were added in the building and business support services sector. The agriculture sector added about 9,000 jobs.  Employment in the construction and manufacturing sectors remained flat.

Most growth in Quebec, B.C.

Statistics Canada said that all the employment growth in April occurred in Quebec, where 22,000 jobs were added, and in British Columbia, which added 17,000 jobs. Employment declined in Nova Scotia by 4,100, and by 2,800 in Newfoundland and Labrador. The other provinces saw little change.

Despite the increase in employment last month, overall employment has fallen by 321,000 since the peak in October 2008.

BMO Capital Markets economist Douglas Porter suggested people not read too much into April's report.

"While quite encouraging, it’s important to recall that head fakes are always possible — employment managed to rise in five separate months in 1991, in the middle of a lengthy, deep recession," Porter said. "And some of the rise may reflect a bounce from the extreme drop at the start of the year.

"Still, this marks a huge improvement from the wicked job losses seen over the winter, and is yet another strong signal that the economy may be approaching bottom certainly sooner than most forecasters believed possible just a few short weeks ago," he added.

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