OTTAWA—Canada’s recent string of job gains came to an end last month as the economy shed 1,500 jobs for the first time since last September, but the month did produce a big gain in full-time employment.
The unemployment rate, however, slipped one-tenth of a point to 7.7 per cent, mainly because there were fewer Canadians looking for work, Statistics Canada says.
Economists have suggested the small number of lost jobs is statistically irrelevant, but did reverse strong gains over the past three months that saw the job market rise by an average of 38,000 jobs a month.
Full-time employment rose sharply by 90,600, totally offset by a 92,100 decline in part-time employees, analysts say.
Gains in full-time jobs total 251,000 over the past year, compared to a 54,000 increase in part-time employment during the period.
Significant gains in March came in the accommodation and food services sector, which saw a 36,000 increase; as well as construction, where 24,000 new jobs were added.
Meanwhile, 17,000 jobs vanished in the health care and social assistance industry and 13,000 in public administration.
Manufacturing saw a decline of more than 9,000 jobs.
“As a consequence of the gain in full-time jobs, hours worked rebounded in March by rising 0.5 per cent month over month after being down in two of the last three months,” says Scotiabank economist Derek Holt.
Bank of Montreal deputy chief economist Douglas Porter said the overall report was more neutral than negative.
“While the results are no ball of fire, the big increase in full-time jobs, the rise in hours worked, a small uptick in average wages, and the dip in the jobless rate are all consistent with underlying improvement in the labour market,” he says.
Both analysts say the report will have no impact on the Bank of Canada’s interest rate decision next week. Most analysts expect the bank’s policy rate to stay at one per cent until late May or July, but some private sector banks have hiked mortgage rates in advance of an official signal.
Regionally, the big change was in Quebec, where 14,700 jobs were lost during the month.
In Ontario, 63,000 new full-time jobs were mostly offset by the loss of 58,000 part-time employment.