The Canadian economy added a surprising 61,000 jobs in September, virtually all in full-time employment and half of them in B.C., Statistics Canada reported Friday.

The job growth helped push the country's unemployment rate down to 7.1 per cent, the lowest since December 2008.

Economists had been expecting 15,000 jobs to be added, and for the unemployment rate to remain steady at 7.3 per cent.

The country added 63,800 full-time jobs, but part-time employment slipped by 2,900.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the numbers were mostly encouraging.

"There's always mixed news in these things," he said. "But there's a lot of job creation here and certainly an awful lot compared to what we're seeing in the United States and elsewhere.

"All these things being said, we remain in a fragile global recovery and it's important to note for Canadians that these numbers will go up and down, they will fluctuate month to month."

"The trend tends to be good but they don't remove our necessity to remain extremely vigilant when it comes to the economy."

Beyond the eye-popping headline number, the employment details "were much softer and more mixed in the report than the headline suggests on multiple counts," Scotiabank economist Derek Holt noted.

Many of the jobs came from public sector job growth, while the private sector lost almost 15,000 jobs.

Self-employment rose by 38,900, "and we always treat this category with skepticism," Holt said.

'All these things being said, we remain in a fragile global recovery."—Prime Minister Stephen Harper

 "Many self-employed jobs are vital contributions to a small-business based economy, but the volatility in this component and its tendency to report a pickup in self-reporting during soft spots in the economy make us doubtful that such a heavy role in lifting the headline is with substance."

And despite the job growth, the actual number of hours worked declined by 0.3 per cent. That's a troubling sign for GDP, since it's calculated based on the number of hours worked times the productivity of the labour force, Holt noted.

Economists had expected employment to be positive last month mostly due to a seasonal hiring spree in the education sector as schools returned to session. About 38,000 education employees were hired.

Holt said the start to the school season always distorts the numbers.

"It's not like there was a sudden rush to hire teachers and related workers," he wrote.

"The sector has posed a problem to StatsCan for years. The seasonal adjustment factors have been distorted by contract shifts in the education sector over recent years as we've long argued."

B.C. leads with half of new jobs

An estimated 32,000 new jobs were created in B.C. where the unemployment rate now sits at 6.7 per cent.

It was the first notable job increase for the province since 2010, but Statistics Canada said it was too soon to say if it represented any kind of trend.

The data agency said job increases were also notable in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

The federal agency said job gains were spread across a number of industries, with educational services adding 38,000 positions with the start of the new school year.

The professional, scientific and technical services sector gained 36,000 jobs. Gains were also seen in accommodation and food services, natural resources, and public administration.

Employment fell by 35,000 in the finance, insurance, real estate and leasing sector, while manufacturing employment slipped by 24,000 for the month.