Canada's economy shed 29,000 jobs in April but the employment rate stayed flat at 6.9 per cent.

Fewer people looking for work caused the jobless rate to stay the same, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Economists had anticipated an increase of 12,000 jobs for April, according to Thomson Reuters.

"There has been little overall employment growth in Canada since August 2013," the data agency said in a release Friday.

For comparison purposes, the U.S. jobless rate dropped from 6.6 per cent to 6.3 per cent in May — but Statistics Canada says Canada and the U.S. count their data in different ways, and if Canada's numbers are calculated the way the U.S. calculates them, then Canada's rate drops to six per cent.

Large drop in Quebec

The lion's share of the losses came from full-time jobs, which shrank by 30,900 positions. Those losses were partially offset by an increase in 2,000 part-time jobs. Private- and public-sector jobs both lost ground, but there was a small uptick in self-employment.

The poor showing comes on the heels of strong gains in March, when the economy cranked out almost 43,000 new jobs.

"The details were a mess," Scotiabank economist Derek Holt said in a note. "It was an ugly jobs number."

The numbers differed across the country, as Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Ontario posted job gains, while the numbers decreased in every other province.

Ontario and Quebec were opposites, with Quebec losing a whopping 32,000 jobs, while Ontario gained almost 26,000.

"Essentially, the [job] markets in most of the country were weak, Alberta and QC [Quebec] had a very bad month, and Ontario had a good one," Holt said.

The participation rate — the percentage of adults either working or looking for work — dropped to 66.1 per cent during the month, the lowest level since 2001.

Although the numbers were undeniably bleak, BMO economist Doug Porter singled out one reason they may look even worse than they really are: "The Good Friday holiday fell on the survey week, and may well have distorted the overall results," he said.

As evidence of that theory, total hours worked plunged 1.9 per cent on a monthly basis, he said, the biggest drop in more than decade, which Statistics Canada attributes partly to the holiday.

"If they can’t properly adjust the hours data for that factor," Porter said, "one can’t help but wonder if the rest of the results offer a clean read as well."