Economy adds 41,000 jobs in March
Canadian dollar flirts with 77 cents US as jobs figure blows away expectations
Canada's economy cranked out an impressive 41,000 jobs last month, more than four times what economists were expecting.
Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey showed there were more people employed in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. At the same time, employment declined in Prince Edward Island and was little changed in the other provinces.
Alberta added almost 19,000 jobs during the month, a reversal of a recent trend, and enough to drag the jobless rate down eight points to the national average again. The province still, however, has fewer people employed today than it did a year ago, by about 1.5 per cent.
That's much better than Alberta's job market did in past recessions, University of Calgary economics professor Trevor Tombe said in an interview Friday
"Overall Alberta is faring quite a bit better than we did in past recessions," he said. "The impression that the sky is falling ust doesn't work."
By sector, health care was a real winner, with 25,000 new jobs. Manufacturing, which has been showing some encouraging economic signs in recent months, lost 32,000 positions.
"This sector had been a rare bright spot until March, and raises some doubts on just how much this sector is truly turning around," BMO economist Doug Porter noted.
The natural resources sector, which includes mining, oil and gas, lost about 2,100 jobs.
Economists polled by Bloomberg had been expecting the Canadian economy to add about 10,000 jobs in March. The surprise good news pushed the Canadian dollar up above the 77 cents level at one point, up by almost a cent on the day.
The strong showing was enough to pull the unemployment rate down by 0.2 percentage points to 7.1 per cent.
"The composition of the increase was also extremely encouraging," CIBC economist Nick Exarhos said. "Most of the increase was driven by full-time positions, up 35,000."
All in all, most watchers said it was an encouraging sign for the economy that needed some good news.
"It gives us a picture of a job market that I think overall is pretty healthy given the current circumstances," said Desjardins senior economist Jimmy Jean.
Considering the significant economic challenges faced by the commodity sector, Jean was encouraged that the March report boosted Canada's six-month average for monthly job gains to about 11,000. He said that, on average, the job market adds 16,000 positions per month under more normal economic conditions.
However, there is no guarantee the strong start to 2016 will continue in the coming months, especially if oil prices stay low, he said.
"The outlook is still fragile."
With files from The Canadian Press