Jobless rate near 3-year high, as Canada loses 2,300 jobs in February

Canada's economy lost an unexpected 2,300 jobs in February, and the jobless rate ticked up to 7.3 per cent, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Jobs number may add to concerns that recent economic rebound isn't based on fundamentals

Economists expected Statistics Canada to reveal on Friday that the Canadian economy added about 8,500 jobs last month. (David Moir/Reuters)

Canada's economy lost an unexpected  2,300 jobs in February, and the jobless rate ticked up to 7.3 per cent, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The data agency said the unemployment rate last month was at its highest level since March 2013, almost three years ago.

The February jobs figure surprised economists, who had forecast Canada would add almost 8,500 jobs, according to a survey conducted by Bloomberg.

British Columbia added jobs during the month, while three provinces — Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island — lost. The other provinces saw little change in their employment numbers.

Most of the job losses were full-time, which lost more than 52,000 jobs during the month. That figure was partially offset by an increase in part-time work.

Canada's dollar and benchmark stock index have quietly rebounded since bottoming out in January, but Friday's jobs number may add to concerns that the rebound isn't based on fundamentals.

Health care lost 20,000 jobs, and the education sector shed 17,000. The natural resources sector lost 9,000 jobs, as several large energy firms either announced or implemented large-scale layoffs during the month.

On the positive side, the construction industry added 34,000 jobs.

"In contrast to the recent past, the goods-producing sector is adding jobs, while the service sector is the area of weakness," BMO economist Doug Porter said. "That tends to happen when the economy shifts from consumer-led to export-led growth, which also often happens after a big currency depreciation."

The gloomy numbers don't paint a picture of an economy that's likely to expand much for the first quarter of 2016.

As Porter put it: "After a series of mildly upbeat economic reports in Canada, today's jobs report crashed the party."

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