Canada's economy added 67,000 jobs in January

Canada saw a rush of 66,800 net new jobs in January, fuelled by a hiring surge in the private sector, but Statistics Canada also says more people searched for work last month, which pushed the unemployment rate to 5.8 per cent from its 43-year low of 5.6 per cent in December.

Number of new jobs according to StatsCan far exceeded analyst prediction of around 8,000

A employee works at a Loblaws store in Toronto in this May 3, 2018, file photo. Job gains in January were led by new positions in the service industry, according to Statistics Canada's latest labour force survey, released Friday. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

The country saw a rush of 66,800 net new jobs in January, fuelled by a hiring surge in the private sector, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The agency's latest labour force survey said more people also searched for work last month, which pushed the unemployment rate to 5.8 per cent from its 43-year low of 5.6 per cent in December.

Economists had expected the addition of 8,000 jobs and an unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

The biggest boost came from the number of private-sector employee positions, which climbed by 111,500 in January for the category's biggest month-to-month increase since the agency started collecting the data point in 1976. The number of self-employed positions, which can include unpaid work, declined by 60,700.

Big gains in service industry

The services sector saw a gain of 99,200 positions, led by new work in wholesale and retail trade, while the goods-producing industries experienced a net loss of 32,300 jobs, the report said.

Only the accommodation and food sectors of the service industry saw a decline between December and January, but compared to January 2018, employment in accommodation and food services was relatively unchanged.

Employment rose by 29,000 jobs in professional, scientific and technical services. Jobs in public administration increased by 21,000, led by gains in Ontario and Quebec.

Year-over-year average hourly wage growth in January for permanent employees was 1.8 per cent, up from December's reading of 1.5 per cent, but still well below its May peak of 3.9 per cent.

The Bank of Canada has been monitoring wage growth ahead of its interest-rate decisions as it tries to determine how well indebted households can absorb higher borrowing costs.

Last week, Bank of Canada senior deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins said the country has been in a "puzzling" stretch of weak wage growth at a time when the job market has been experiencing one of its biggest labour shortages in years.

She said the struggles of energy-producing provinces, which began with the late-2014 oil slump, have been a big factor that has dragged down national wage-growth numbers. The Bank of Canada has expressed confidence that wage growth will pick up its pace.

More jobs for youth

The numbers Friday also showed that, year over year, the number of employee hours worked were up 1.2 per cent compared to 0.9 per cent in December.

Canada added 30,900 full-time jobs last month and 36,000 part-time positions, the report said.

More young Canadians, between ages 15 and 24 years, also found work last month as youth employment gained 52,800 positions. The youth jobless rate edged up to 11.2 per cent, from 11.1 per cent in December as more young people looked for work.

"The labour force participation rate among those under 25 jumped up, reversing a decline over the second half of last year," said Brendon Bernard, economist at employment search engine Indeed Canada.

"The weak situation for youth was one of the negative points of the 2018 labour market. While one month of data shouldn't get us too excited, it's good to see this year start off on the right track."

Derek Holt, head of capital markets economics for Scotiabank, said in a written statement that the Friday job numbers "blew away expectations for Canadian labour markets to ring in the new year." 

But more useful than any monthly jump is the larger picture view, he said.

"Over the past year, Canada has grown 327,000 new jobs. Since an inflection point in mid-2016, once the economy was adjusting to the much more serious and longer lived commodity shock in 2014-15, Canada has grown about 900,000 jobs — 75 per cent of which have been full time."

Holt also pointed out that consensus forecasting of job growth has been routinely underestimating labour market growth, missing more than "60 per cent of the cumulative job gains produced in the Canadian economy over the past three years." 

By region, Ontario and Quebec had the biggest employment increases last month. Energy-rich Alberta, hit hard by the oil-price decline, shed jobs for a second-straight month and saw its jobless rate rise to 6.8 per cent, up from 6.4 per cent.

Variability between provinces

While the unemployment rate averaged 5.8 per cent nationally last month, there was significant variation in joblessness from province to province.

Here's how the unemployment percentages break down:

  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 11.4.
  • Prince Edward Island: 9.9. 
  • Nova Scotia: 6.9.
  • New Brunswick: 8.2. 
  • Quebec: 5.4. 
  • Ontario: 5.7. 
  • Manitoba: 5.5. 
  • Saskatchewan: 5.5. 
  • Alberta: 6.8. 
  • British Columbia: 4.7. 

With files from CBC News