Canada's unemployment rate rose to 7.3 per cent in October as the country lost a total of 54,000 jobs, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The economy shed 71,700 full-time jobs, while part-time employment grew by 17,700.

The October job losses were a surprise, as the consensus forecast of economists had been for employment to rise by 15,000.

Last month's decline in employment also wiped out the bulk of the gain of 61,000 jobs in September. It was the largest jobs decline in almost three years, dating all the way back to March 2009, during the depths of the recession.

"While job losses in any given month are by no means rare, losses of this magnitude are extremely rare, aside from recessionary periods —the last such hefty job drop outside of recession was in September 1996," said BMO Capital Markets deputy chief economist Douglas Porter in a commentary.

Most of the decline last month occurred in manufacturing — which lost 48,000 jobs in the month.

"It’s almost as if the strong Canadian dollar and weak U.S. recovery caught up with the sector in one fell swoop," Porter said.

The construction sector shed 20,000 jobs, while the natural resources sector was the only one to see job gains as it added 12,000 positions. 

Wide-ranging losses

Eight of sixteen job categories the agency tracks lost jobs, and only two sectors posted mildly notable gains. And five of 10 provinces had job losses.

"The magnitude and breadth of the decline is disconcerting here," Scotiabank economist Derek Holt said of the report. "The headline volatility from one month to the next should be dismissed, but it's the structural trends here that are disturbing," Holt said.

The drop in full-time jobs was especially concerning, Holt said.

The Canadian dollar sold off against the U.S. dollar in the wake of the report. The loonie was down more than one cent to trade at 98.16 cents US.

Speaking from the G20 summit in Cannes, France, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty called the unemployment report "disappointing."

"We’re an open trading country, and we get buffeted when things become difficult elsewhere, as they are now in Europe," he said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, also in Cannes, added he was "disappointed with the numbers and concerned about them."

Ontario lost 39,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate in the province rose 0.5 percentage points to 8.1 per cent.

Newfoundland and Labrador was the only province to experience notable employment gains in October, as the province added 4,100 jobs.

The provincial unemployment rate eased to 12.9 per cent from 13.5 per cent reported for September.

The poor Canadian jobs report came the same day as a report from the U.S. Labour Department that said the economy created about 80,000 jobs last month, close to expectations of 95,000.

The U.S. jobless rate was 9.0 per cent, down from 9.1 per cent in September.