Welder jobs

Canada lost about 4,300 jobs in December, Statistics Canada said Friday. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

Canada lost about 4,300 jobs in December, a small enough figure for Statistics Canada to describe the job market as "virtually unchanged."

The unemployment rate stayed steady at 6.6 per cent, the agency said Friday.

Despite the well-publicized decline in oil prices, Alberta led in terms of job growth, and actually added almost 6,000 new jobs during the month. Ontario, by way of contrast, shed 3,500 jobs.

Quebec lost 6,700 jobs.

All in all, Canada actually added 54,000 full-time jobs during the month, offset by a loss of more than 58,000 positions.

The monthly uptick in full-time jobs was good news for many watchers.

"A switch away from part-time positions to full-time positions can be considered a healthy job market dynamics, particularly if workers have been involuntarily part-time," Scotiabank said of the hidden full-time jobs gain in a note to clients.

Others disagreed, saying the underlying numbers are even bleaker than the headline showing a slight loss of jobs. Andrew Jackson, a senior policy adviser at the Broadbent Institute noted that the lower unemployment rate masks the reality that many Canadians are facing. "The proportion of Canadians with jobs actually fell, from 61.6 per cent to 61.5 per cent," he said.

And despite the monthly full-time jobs surge, for the year as a whole, "just 32,000 permanent jobs were created over the year, compared to an increase of 110,000 temporary jobs," Jackson noted.

The December numbers mean Canada added a total of 186,000 jobs in 2014 as a whole, most of which came in the second half of the year.