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Health, retail sectors help drive Quebec's jobless rate to historic low

The province posted a 4.9 per cent unemployment rate to finish 2017, a number not recorded since comparable data became available in January 1976.

Province posted a 4.9 per cent unemployment rate to finish 2017, continuing downward trend that began in 2016

Quebec's unemployment rate was 4.9 per cent for the month of December, the lowest figure on record, largely thanks to growth in service industries, including health care. (Jim Young/Reuters)

With more people working and fewer people looking for jobs, Quebec's unemployment rate has fallen to the lowest it's ever been, according to figures released by Statistics Canada.

The province posted a 4.9 per cent unemployment rate to finish 2017, a number not recorded since comparable data became available in January 1976.

About 27,000 jobs were added in the province last month, and gains in full-time work accounted for nearly all of the employment growth.

"Quebec was probably the most compelling story throughout the year, with job growth running strong and the unemployment rate plunging to a record low," Bank of Montreal economist Robert Kavcic wrote in a report to clients.

He pointed out that there was middling job growth in Montreal and Quebec City compared to other cities across the country, but that the numbers were still some of the best seen in the last decade.

Montreal's unemployment rate is at 6.1 per cent, while Quebec City's is at 3.9 per cent. Quebec's unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points in December, continuing a downward trend that began at the start of 2016.

The services-producing industry led the way concerning job growth, adding 145,300 jobs from the beginning of January 2016 to the end of December 2017, for a total of 3,406,000 jobs.

The next-highest growth came in the finance, insurance and real estate sector, which added 35,100 jobs in the same time period to reach a total of 880,000 jobs.

The trend in Quebec mirrored the overall trend for the country, as Canada's jobless rate fell to 5.7 per cent for December, also a 42-year low.

December's numbers bring a close to the data for 2017 as a whole, which ended up being Canada's best year for jobs since 2002, with 423,000 jobs added.

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