The number of jobs created in August rose by 59,000, almost three times more than expected by analysts, with part-time work and employees age 55 and over leading the gain, Statistics Canada reported today in its Labour Force Survey.
Analysts had forecast a gain of 20,000 jobs for August.
While job growth in August exceeded expectations, in the six months prior to August, the monthly average of jobs gained was far below that, at 12,000 jobs created per month.
Employment has increased 1.4 per cent since August 2012, the equivalent of 246,000 jobs.
August also saw a drop in the unemployment rate, which fell 0.1 percentage points from July to 7.1 per cent.
Growth was mainly in Alberta, Ontario
But Statistics Canada said that most of the jobs created last month were part-time positions taken up by older workers. Part-time jobs accounted for 42,000 of the 59,000 jobs gained.
"Employment gains were concentrated among people aged 55 and over while there was little change among youths and people aged 25 to 54," the agency said.
Employment among people 55 and over rose by 52,000 jobs in August, with most of the gains among women, the agency said.
Alberta and Ontario had the biggest job gains and accounted for most of Canada's job growth in August while Manitoba and Quebec saw employment decline.
Ontario gained 44,000 mostly part-time jobs in August, 2.2 per cent more than in August 2012. The unemployment rate in the province was 7.5 per cent.
Employment in Alberta continued to increase for the fifth month in a row, with a gain of 15,000 jobs and year-on-year growth of 3.8 per cent. The unemployment rate in that province was 4.8 per cent in August.
Health, social assistance see biggest boost
Health care and social assistance were the sectors that saw the biggest increase in employment in August, gaining 60,000 jobs.
"Employment in this industry has been on a long-term upward trend and has increased by 2.5 per cent since August 2012," Statistics Canada said.
Information, culture and recreation, which had seen employment decline in the previous two months, saw gains in August that brought the level of employment close to what it was 12 months earlier.
The construction industry has seen a big boost since August 2012, with employment rising 9.1 per cent in that time, possibly as a result of demand in the housing sector recovering after a cooling-off period in 2012 caused by the tightening of mortgage rules.
The construction sector gained 18,000 jobs in August 2013.
The educational services sector, by contrast, has taken a hit, losing 22,000 jobs in August and seeing employment shrink by 2.8 per cent since August 2012.
The number of self-employed Canadians rose 3.6 per cent in August.
Private-sector employment increased 1.5 year-on-year, while the public sector saw little movement from a year ago, Statistics Canada said.
Analyst says 'little cause' to get excited
The dollar rose to above 96 cents US on the better-than-expected jobs numbers in Friday trading, from a close of 95.18 Thursday.
But Toronto-Dominion Bank senior economist Sonya Gulati said in an investor's note that "there is little cause to get too excited" about the jobs report.
"After two straight months of disappointing Canadian job numbers, we finally got a positive showing. However, the devil is always in the details and this month's release is no exception," Gulati wrote.
The fact that the gains were concentrated among older workers and in part-time positions, and occurred primarily in two provinces means the gains are not as positive as they might seem.
Gulati also pointed out that while the number of hours worked rose by 1.3 per cent between August 2012 and August 2013, average hourly earnings increased only 1.5 per cent in that time.
"This represents the weakest pace of wage inflation since late 2011," Gulati said.
At least one labour union also expressed concern over the preponderance of part-time work.
"Job growth has also been 'part-time' in the sense that only a few months this year have seen meaningful employment gains," said Erin Weir, an economist with the United Steelworkers union, in a news release.
"Over the past six months, employers have added an average of only 12,000 jobs per month — not nearly enough to keep pace with the growth of Canada's working-age population, let alone reduce unemployment."
CIBC report finds similar trends
A day before Friday's jobs report, CIBC World Markets Inc. released its own employment findings that pointed to similar trends.
CIBC said Canadians are increasingly being forced to take on part-time work and that older workers are pushing younger job seekers out of the market.
Employment within the 15-18 age group has dropped by 22 per cent since 2007, as "the lack of higher-paying work has forced parents into taking the kind of employment previously reserved for teenage students," CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld says in the report.
"Recently, food counter and kitchen help employment has plunged among those under 19 but soared for other age groups, including a huge climb for those 25 and over," the report says. "It's been much the same for lower-level retail sales and cashier positions."
The job market has not been strong enough to generate higher-quality jobs for older workers, and to offset the decline in manufacturing and the public sector, Shenfeld said.
"Young adults, displaced older workers, or immigrants whose education and skills are not always fully rewarded in the job market have been pushed into low-wage work during what has been a fairly lacklustre economic recovery," he said.