Canada’s labour market delivered a surprise Friday with its biggest one-month employment surge since 1976, when the government started collecting comparable data.
The country added 106,500 net jobs in April, the bulk of which were full time, Statistics Canada said in its latest labour force survey. The unexpected increase helped drop the unemployment rate to 5.7 per cent last month, down from 5.8 per cent in March.
The labour market has seen strong numbers since mid-2016 and has remained a bright spot for an economy that has struggled in other areas. Economic growth, for instance, almost stalled over the winter.
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Economists had expected a gain of 10,000 jobs for the month and the unemployment rate to remain at 5.8 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon. Employment grew 0.6 per cent with the April increase, which was the highest proportional monthly expansion since 1994 when it reached 0.7 per cent.
A closer look at the April numbers reveals the overall gain was driven by the creation of 73,000 full-time jobs and 83,800 positions in the private sector. Compared with a year earlier, Canada added 426,400 jobs for a proportional increase of 2.3 per cent. The labour market has created an average of 36,000 jobs per month over the past year.
Year-over-year average hourly wage growth for all employees in April was 2.5 per cent, up from a reading of 2.4 per cent in March. Wage growth is a key indicator monitored by the Bank of Canada ahead of its interest-rate decisions.
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The job gains were spread across many industries, with both the services and factory sectors seeing employment increases. Employment rose by 32,400 in the category of wholesale and retail trade positions, while the construction sector added 29,200 jobs. A rush of 66,400 part-time positions for workers aged 15 to 24 years old helped lower the youth unemployment rate last month to 10.3 per cent, down from 10.7 per cent, the survey said.
By region, Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Prince Edward Island all saw net job gains last month. The April increase put Canada back on the job-creation path following a one-month interruption in March. Overall employment dropped by 7,200 net jobs in March, the first monthly decrease after six consecutive months of rising employment between September and February.