The Canadian economy added a better-than-expected 43,000 jobs in January, Statistics Canada said Friday.
That was enough to push down the unemployment rate by one-10th of a percentage point to 8.3 per cent. It was the fourth month of job gains in the last six months.
Economists had been forecasting a more modest gain of 15,000 jobs.
The jobs gains were largely part time, as only 1,400 full-time jobs were created last month. Most of the new job creation took place in the private sector.
From the employment peak in October 2008, the country has shed 280,000 jobs.
Ontario was responsible for more than half the new jobs, adding 30,300 positions.
Average hourly wage growth in January dramatically slowed to 1.8 per cent year-over-year. The annual rate of wage growth had been 2.4 per cent in December.
Youth employment rises
Young people were the beneficiaries of 29,000 new jobs in January, pushing down the youth jobless rate to 15.1 per cent from 16 per cent.
"This was the first notable employment increase for youths since the start of the downturn in the fall of 2008," Statistics Canada said.
The biggest job gains took place in business, building and other support trades along with retail and wholesale trade. Jobs disappeared in professional, scientific and technical services, as well as in manufacturing and agriculture.
"While the details of this report were less impressive than the headline results, there is little doubt that the job market is grinding forward," said BMO NesbittBurns economist Douglas Porter in a morning commentary.
"Note that employment is now just 0.1 per cent below year-ago levels, an amazingly quick turnaround from the dismal conditions of early last year, all things considered," he said.
CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld also sees a positive trend developing.
"One great month does not a boom make, but strong hiring by Canadian employers in January builds on a decent two-quarter trend that evinces a gradual recovery in the labour market," he said.
More stimulus needed: CLC
But the Canadian Labour Congress noted that more than 300,000 Canadians had been unemployed for 27 weeks or more in January.
CLC president Ken Georgetti called on the federal government to invest more in public services and infrastructure, saying the private sector can't turn things around by itself.
"Ottawa will table its new budget in a few weeks and it simply must expand its stimulus spending," Georgetti said in a statement.
In the U.S., the jobless figures for January showed 20,000 jobs were lost, worse than the 5,000-job gain that had been expected.
But the jobless rate fell from 10 per cent to 9.7 per cent as more Americans gave up looking for work.