Canada starts year with surprise job gains

OTTAWA, CANADA (AFP) — Canada added a surprise 35,000 net full-time jobs in January, reducing its unemployment rate to 5.5 percent and boosting its economic outlook, the government reported Friday.

After outperforming other Group of Seven industrialized nations in recent years, 2019 ended here with economists forecasting a downturn.

The nation shed 71,000 jobs in November and gained back 35,000 the following month, but other indicators pointed to a looming slowdown.

In the end, however, January’s gains were almost double what analysts had expected, giving reason for optimism.

“We always caution investors to take any individual labour force reading with a grain of salt, but the continuation of job creation is putting some of that prior weakness further in the rearview mirror,” CIBC economist Royce Mendes said in a research note.

Most of the job gains were observed in Manitoba, Quebec and the Atlantic coast province of New Brunswick, while Alberta — with its oil sector struggling — saw a drop in employment, according to Statistics Canada.

The agency said there were more people working in manufacturing, construction and agriculture in the month, while employment declined in health care and social assistance.

It also noted severe winter storms, including in British Columbia and Newfoundland, causing employees to lose a significant number of work hours.