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Ontario jobless rate jumps to 7.4%
January increase 0.5% since December; national rate drops slightly to 7.9%
OTTAWA (CP) — Spurred by the creation of part-time jobs, the national unemployment rate dropped slightly in January to 7.9 per cent from 8.0 per cent in December.
But Toronto's rate rose 0.2 per cent to 7.1 per cent, and Ontario saw a steeper jump of 0.5 per cent to 7.4 per cent.
Economists expressed surprise as employment rose by about 76,000 from December, the first major increase in more than a year.
"I'm stunned," said economist Marc Levesque of TD Bank. "We've got what at the very best is a very severe slowdown in the Canadian economy and the labour market's pumping out jobs again.
"We've never really seen signs of the weakness that you typically see in the job market during this type of downturn. It's mind-boggling."
The encouraging numbers were largely attributable to 46,000 additional part-time jobs. Part-time workers comprised 18.5 per cent of the workforce, the highest proportion since mid-1999.
That takes "a bit of a shine off the data" Levesque said, but it's countered by full-time jobs in big enough numbers to be encouraging.
Jobless rate by province A look at January unemployment rate by province, with December rate in brackets. Newfoundland 17.4 (17.0) Prince Edward Island 12.7 (12.4) Nova Scotia 9.7 (10.0) New Brunswick 11.3 (11.4) Quebec 9.1 (9.7) Ontario 7.4 (6.9) Manitoba 5.1 (4.7) Saskatchewan 6.0 (6.2) Alberta 4.7 (5.1) British Columbia 8.9 (9.7) - CP
Employment among adult woman rose by 46,000 in January, all full-time, causing unemployment in that sector to fall 0.3 percentage points to 6.1 per cent.
Unemployment among adult men remained steady at 7.3 per cent. The gap between the two groups - 1.2 percentage points - was the highest since 1992.
Youth employment rose 36,000 in January, mostly due to added work in the restaurant sector, the agency said.
The figures reflect a good balance between public- and private-sector jobs, Levesque said. "The numbers are unambiguously strong."
However, Pierre Laliberte, an economist at the Canadian Labour Congress, says that, while he finds the numbers encouraging, he wants to see more months like January before declaring a trend shift.
"Good news? Yes. Are we out of trouble? It's not clear yet," Laliberte said.
While Levesque said Canadians may have seen the worst of the downturn, he warned they could see another reversal in the job statistics during the next few months.
Canada, however, has outperformed the United States in job output since the downturn, he noted.
"Even if we get the job losses over the next few months, in light of what we saw today it's not going to paint an overwhelmingly weak picture of labour market conditions on this side of the border."
Some analysts had expected the Bank of Canada to trim interest rates one last time next month as insurance for an economic recovery, but Levesque says the figures Friday "leave little doubt that the Bank of Canada is on hold."
The bank cut rates 10 times in the last year, lowering its key policy rate to two per cent. It has largely followed the lead of the U.S. Federal Reserve, which has slashed its key policy rate to 1.75 per cent.
Laliberte said he'd be surprised if the central bank dropped rates again. Its next meeting is scheduled for mid-March, after the next job figures are out.
The youth unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 13.8 per cent, still 1.7 percentage points higher than a year earlier.
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