Canada lost a surprising 18,600 jobs in November, pushing the country's unemployment rate up by 0.1 percentage points to 7.4 per cent, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Economists had been looking for between 16,000 and 17,000 jobs to be added, and for the unemployment rate to remain unchanged at 7.3 per cent.

The loss of 53,300 part-time jobs offset an increase of 34,600 in full-time work, the federal agency said.

"The details [of]  the November jobs report are mildly better than the headline," Scotiabank economist Derek Holt said in a commentary. That's because most of the drop came in one province, and was tied to a decrease in self-employment.

Employment fell in Quebec, where 31,000 jobs were lost and the provincial unemployment rate hit eight per cent, and in Saskatchewan, which lost 4,200 jobs and saw unemployment rise one percentage point to 5.1 per cent.

Provincial unemployment

Canada's national unemployment rate was 7.4 per cent in November. Here's what happened provincially (previous month in rackets):

  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 13.2 (12.9)
  • Prince Edward Island: 11.1 (11.2)
  • Nova Scotia: 8.6 (8.6)
  • New Brunswick:  9.8 (9.4)
  • Quebec:  8.0 (7.7)
  • Ontario:  7.9 (8.1)
  • Manitoba:  5.5 (5.2)
  • Saskatchewan:  5.1 (4.1)
  • Alberta:  5.0 (5.1)
  • British Columbia:  7.0 (6.6)

Source: Canadian Press

In Nova Scotia, employment grew by 4,400.

However, the province's jobless rate remained unchanged at 8.6 per cent, as more people joined the labour market. 

There was little change in employment in the other provinces.

The retail and wholesale trade sector, as well as the business, building and other support services sector, lost jobs.

For the first time in three months, the number of hours worked increased, by 0.3 per cent. That means more work was being done, which implies the wages from that will manifest themselves in the real economy eventually. 

"This detail is one key reason why the headline provides a worse interpretation of labour markets than the details," Holt said of the uptick in hours worked.

Statistics Canada said job gains were seen in the "other services" category, which includes personal services and repair and maintenance.

The construction, natural resources and utilities sectors also saw job growth in November.

"Although overall employment in goods-producing industries rose [mostly due to construction], manufacturing employment declined again," United Steelworkers economist Erin Weir noted. "Canadian manufacturing has lost 627,000 jobs over the past nine years."

The Canadian dollar was slightly higher in the wake of the disappointing jobs report.

The loonie rose 0.14 of a cent at 98.73 cents US at 7:18 a.m. ET.