Hamilton's unemployment rate edged downward for a sixth-straight month in December.

Statistics Canada reported on Friday that the city's jobless rate fell to 5.8 per cent, down 0.1 point from the month before.

"We're continuing to do fairly well compared to neighbouring municipalities," sad Neil Everson, Hamilton's director of planning and economic development.

Here's how Hamilton stacks up compared to its neighbours in the Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey from Feb. 8:

  • Oshawa 9.6 per cent
  • St. Catherines/Niagara 7.1 per cent
  • Kitchener 6.9 per cent
  • London, Ont. 8.5 per cent
  • Windsor 9.7 per cent

The provincial average was 7.7 per cent, while the Canadian average was 7 per cent.

"We're increasing people in the labour force and our unemployment rate is dropping, so we're heading in the right direction," Everson said.

Everson was also quick to point to the city's $1.5 billion in building permits from 2012 and the 2 per cent industrial vacancy rate as positive signs for the months ahead. As a point of comparison showing the increasing pace of Hamilton's growth, just $8 million worth of building permits were issued in 2005.

Everson says the industrial vacancy rate is now so low that it's "amost to the point of concern" for the city.

"We almost don't have as much product as we show to show people," Everson said. "I think that's a very strong indication that the Hamilton economy is doing very well.

"These numbers are phenomenal."

'It had to be coming'

Nationwide, Canada's economy shed 22,000 jobs in January, but a corresponding drop in the number of unemployed people looking for work caused the jobless rate to drop as well, to seven per cent.

Statistics Canada said the jobless rate ticked 0.1 percentage points lower as 57,500 people stopped looking for work —more than enough to offset the decline in the number of jobs.

"It had to be coming," CIBC economist Avery Shenfeld said in reaction to the news.

In the last five months of 2012, the Canadian economy created an average of 37,000 jobs a month. That was against a backdrop of official GDP data that showed the economy wasn't expanding much.

With those two data points at odds, something had to eventually give.

"The only question was when," Shenfeld said.

Most of the job losses came from the public sector, where there were 27,000 fewer positions. Self-employment rose slightly, and the private sector was largely unchanged, the data agency said.

Self-employment tends to tick higher following job losses in conventional industries, as people decide to start their own businesses.