Unemployment in Hamilton drops in January

Hamilton's unemployment rate decreased in January according to Statistics Canada.
Canada's public sector saw a gain of 14,700 jobs and the private sector shed 13,600 workers.

Hamilton's economy has received a boost on the job front, as the unemployment rate dipped to 6.0 per cent in January from 6.6 per cent in December.

Statistics Canada released the numbers for the national employment rate Friday.

The national unemployment rate was 7.0 per cent. In Ontario, the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 per cent in January from 7.9 per cent in December.

The Canadian economy created almost 30,000 new jobs in January.  

The increase was led by a 50,500 rise in full-time work, while the number of part-time workers fell by 21,100.

The labour force participation rate — the proportion of people either employed or underemployed and actively looking for work — was 66.3 per cent, compared with 66.4 per cent in December as the labour force shrunk by 20,900 people.

The dollar responded positively to the news, inching up 0.42 of a cent to 90.75 cents US. The S&P/TSX composite index shed some strong early gains by midday and was up about four points to 13,717.75.

Accommodation, food services see biggest gains

The biggest job gains last month were in the accommodation and food-services sector, with an increase of 17,000 workers, followed by health and social services, which gained 16,900 jobs, and professional, scientific and technical services, which added 16,600 positions.

Business, building and other support services lost 25,400 jobs, which brought employment in that sector back to what it was 12 months earlier, Statistics Canada said.

Public administration shed 16,000 jobs in January, and when compared with a year earlier, employment was down 58,000, a drop of 5.8 per cent. That, Statistics Canada said, made it the only industry with an employment decline over the period.

Overall, the public sector saw a gain of 14,700 jobs and the private sector shed 13,600 workers.

The proportion of people (employed or underemployed) actively looking for work, known as the labour force participation rate,​ remained virtually unchanged at 66.3 per cent, compared to 66.4 per cent a month earlier.

U.S. jobless rate lowest since October 2008

According to other figures released Friday, the U.S. added 113,000 jobs, fewer than the monthly average for 2013, which was 194,000, but more than the 75,000 jobs gained in December, the lowest increase in three years. 

Economists had blamed the December slump on the cold weather and had been expecting a gain of between 170,000 and 180,000 positions. Payroll firm ADP had said on Wednesday that the private sector in the U.S. had added 175,000 jobs, although its numbers are usually higher than the official government figures.

The U.S. unemployment rate decreased slightly in January to 6.6 per cent, the lowest it has been since October 2008 and down from 6.7 per cent in December 2013. 

There were also more people participating in the labour force in January, which pushed up the participation rate 0.2 percentage points from December to 63 per cent.

The construction sector saw the biggest job gains, adding 48,000 workers in January, more than enough to offset the 22,000 jobs that were lost in December.

Construction, manufacturing, and mining and drilling companies together had a combined gain of 76,000 jobs, which some analysts took as a sign of a recovering economy.

"You rarely see expansions in these industries without the economy being in fairly healthy shape," Gary Burtless, an economist at Brookings Institution, told The Associated Press.

Professional and business services also had a strong month, adding 36,000 jobs. Growth in this sector had been consistent throughout 2013, with gains of about 55,000 jobs a month on average.

Employment in the leisure and hospitality industries has also been growing, averaging 38,000 new jobs a month. In January, this sector gained 24,000 workers.

Retail and federal government work, meanwhile, both saw a decline in employment in January, with the U..S Postal Service alone losing 9,000 jobs.

Speculation on Fed tapering

The weaker than expected job results had some in the U.S. wondering whether the Federal Reserve's decision in December to start scaling back its economic stimulus measures may have been premature.

Recent signs of tepid growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector and trouble in the emerging economies of countries such as China, Turkey and India have roiled world markets, but on Friday, investors seemed relatively pleased with the job numbers.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 70 points in early trading, but rallied soon after and by midday had risen more than 58 points to 15,687.16. The Nasdaq moved up about 36 points to 4,093.25 while the S&P 500 were up almost 10 points to 1,783.01.

Some took the gains in the markets as a sign that traders think the lukewarm jobs numbers in the U.S. will mean that the Fed will hold off on making further cuts to its stimulus program, but not everybody agreed with that interpretation.

"Given the strength of economic growth in the second half of last year, we expect to see a rebound in the monthly gains over the next few months," said Paul Ashworth, a Capital Economics economist, who expects the Fed to continue to wind down its stimulus program.