Canada’s economy added a modest 12,500 jobs in April, as more Canadians entered full-time work, according to data released Friday by Statistics Canada.

The national unemployment rate held steady at 7.2 per cent.

Economists had predicted a gain of about 15,000 jobs in April, following a dismal drop the month before. The country had unexpectedly lost 54,500 jobs in March, making it the worst month for Canadian employment since before the last recession, in February 2009.

Despite the recent improvement, Canada's labour market during the first four months of this year had a net loss of about 13,000 jobs.

April job gains were attributed to an increase in full-time employment across the country. Full-time jobs grew by 36,000, while part-time positions fell by 23,000.

There was also a rise of paid employees —  14,200 — as opposed to self-employed workers.

About 34,200 public sector jobs were created last month, despite government cutbacks. The public sector has been a jobs generator since April 2012, adding about 93,500 new jobs, compared to just 10,000 in private industries.

Manufacturing work increased by 21,000 last month, the first time the sector has added jobs since last June, Statistics Canada said.

"I am pleased that more Canadians are working, as job growth was positive and on the right track," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in a statement Friday.

Fewer Canadians looking for work

Despite the seemingly positive changes, economist Erin Weir said the modest increases in employment numbers is tempered by the fact that fewer people are now looking for work. 

Fewer than two-thirds of Canadians over the age of 15 are now employed or looking for work, the lowest participation rate since February 2012, said Weir, an economist with the United Steelworkers.

"While official unemployment has remained at 1.4 million, the number of Canadians not counted as being in the labour force keeps increasing as our working-age population grows faster than employment and unemployment," Weir said in a note.  

'In failing to address the problem of high youth unemployment, we're turning our back on young people struggling to find jobs, pay for ever escalating tuition costs and just get by.'—Ken Lewenza, CAW president

"One would expect the participation rate to decline over time as more Canadians retire. However, April’s figures reflect a drop in labour-force participation among those below the age of 25 rather than long-term population aging," he added. 

By province, Alberta saw the most job creation, adding about 14,800 positions. The unemployment rate for the province fell to 4.4 per cent.

Manitoba did not fare as well, losing about 11,100 jobs in April and wiping out the employment gains it had made over the past year. Employment also declined in New Brunswick and in Newfoundland and Labrador.

While employment rose for Canadians overall, youth employment declined in April. There were 18,800 fewer jobs among people aged 15 to 24, and fewer youths looking for work. The youth unemployment rate has crept up over the last year and is now at 14.5 per cent, twice the national rate.

Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers Union, expressed concerns over the rising youth jobless rate.

"In failing to address the problem of high youth unemployment, we're turning our back on young people struggling to find jobs, pay for ever escalating tuition costs and just get by," Lewenza said in a release. He urged all levels of government to implement plans to find young Canadians full-time work.

During the last 12 months, overall employment in Canada increased less than one per cent, adding 163,000 jobs to the economy.