Canada's job market added nearly 23,000 jobs in December, but the unemployment rate stayed level at 7.1 per cent.

Ontario was the only province to post a jobs increase, according to Statistics Canada figures released Friday.

Everywhere else, the figure was either flat or declined.

The strong figure was much better than what analysts polled by Bloomberg were expecting — a contraction of 10,000 jobs. December's figure brings the total number of new jobs in 2015 to 158,000.

CANADIAN UNEMPLOYMENT IN DECEMBER

Beneath the surface, however, things look less rosy.

"The breakdown continued to reveal disturbing trends in higher-paying prime age employment [which is] a more accurate signal of economic conditions," economist David Madani at Capital Economics said in a note to clients after the numbers came out.

Fewer full-time jobs

In addition to being concentrated almost entirely in one province, all the new jobs in December were of the self-employed or part-time variety. Economists generally believe those are lesser-quality jobs because they often initially come with much lower salaries.

Overall, the economy lost 6,400 full-time jobs during the month. The private sector lost 9,000 positions, while the public sector shed 8,400.

Those declines were offset by 29,200 part-time jobs and 40,300 more people classified as "self-employed," however, which goes a long way in explaining the overall growth.

By sector, manufacturing was a bright spot, adding 6,100 jobs.

Manufacturing is also the only goods-producing sector to have eked out job gains for the year as a whole, adding just under 36,000 jobs during the year.

"While the details were on the soft side, the decent headline increase and encouraging gain in manufacturing suggest that recent pessimism over the Canadian economy might be a bit overdone, maybe," BMO economist Benjamin Reitzes said.