Canadian job creation came in far below expectations in February, producing only 15,100 new jobs as the number of full-time jobs fell.

The Statistics Canada report Friday showed the unemployment rate remained at 7.8 per cent.

Economists had expected an increase of about 23,500 jobs, enough to push the rate down to 7.7 per cent.

Instead, the economy put in the worst jobs performance in three months, with full-time employment actually falling by 23,800. The majority of the losses came in the business, building and other support services group.

The loonie weakened immediately after the report but shook off early losses to trade at 102.69 cents US, up 0.19 of a cent from Thursday's Bank of Canada close.

The report followed a strong 69,200 gain in jobs in January.

"It was a bit of a sleeper as far a jobs reports go," Vancouver-based Citizens Bank said in a commentary. "The disappointment comes from the fact that momentum from last month's report was not built on.

"Combine this with January's smaller-than-expected trade surplus and the possibility that (first-quarter) real GDP won't match that of the last quarter," the bank said, and "this lowers expectations for any early rate hike by the Bank of Canada."

 Number of unemployed

1,448,500

 Number of employed

17,229,600

 Unemployment rate 7.8%
 Youth (15-24) unemployment rate

14.3%

 Jobless rate, men 25 and up 6.8%
 Jobless rate, women 25 and up 6.3%

Statistics Canada releases its GDP report on March 31.

"Not bad, but underwhelming," Douglas Porter of BMO Capital Markets said the jobs report.

"The details of the report were on the soft side, and there's nothing here to convince the Bank (of Canada) to accelerate its tightening plans.

On Thursday, the economy produced another surprising disappointment, with Statistics Canada reporting that Canada's trade surplus fell from $1.7 billion to $116 million in January.

There were other indicators of weakness in Friday's jobs report. Part-time employment accounted for all the gains and more, increasing by 38,900 during the month. The private sector shed 20,000 jobs, and the number of employees in Canada, as opposed to those who were self-employed, declined by 10,400.

Statistics Canada noted that of the 322,000 jobs created over the past 12 months, more have been part-time jobs than full-time.

In February, employment gains were concentrated in the health care and social assistance group, which added 18,000 jobs, and accommodation and food services, which picked up 15,000.

Alberta was the only province in Canada with a notable employment gain — of about 14,000 jobs — while Ontario and Saskatchewan experienced small declines.

With files from The Canadian Press