Canada lost a modest 2,300 jobs in February disappointing forecasters who expected gains of closer to 10,000 following January gains. Despite the modest decline, it was enough to raise the unemployment rate to 7.3 per cent from 7.2 per cent in January. Statistics Canada figures show this is the highest the rate since March 2013.
Overall, 52,000 full-time jobs were eliminated in February which was largely offset by part-time hiring. Employment numbers grew in one demographic— men over the age of 55.
Despite posting a surprise gain of 1,400 jobs, Alberta saw its unemployment rate rise to 7.9 per cent, from 7.4 per cent, the highest level in over 20 years. December 1995 was the last time Alberta had an unemployment rate so high. BMO chief economist Doug Porter said the “hefty” increase pushed Alberta’s unemployment rate to the highest level outside Atlantic Canada, which he labelled “an extremely rare situation.” Sectors such as resources, agriculture and manufacturing have seen the most job losses in Alberta over the past year.
It is also the first time in almost 30 years that the unemployment rate in Alberta is higher than Quebec.
Statistics Canada found that Saskatchewan was among the hardest hit provinces last month, losing 7,800 jobs compared to January and seeing its unemployment rate climb 0.3 percentage points to 5.9 per cent. New Brunswick lost 5,700 net positions last month and saw its jobless rate move up to 9.9 per cent.
British Columbia was the only province that added jobs in February, bringing a net total of 14,100 new positions. Ontario posted a surprise loss of 11,200 jobs, pulling its unemployment rate up a notch to 6.8 per cent.
The data also showed that self-employed positions across Canada increased by 3,000 last month, while the net number of employee jobs fell by 5,300.
The number of private-sector jobs rose by 15,200, while public-sector positions declined by 20,400. The youth unemployment rate climbed to 13.3 per cent last month, from 13.0 per cent in January.
Economists expect the national unemployment rate to remain fairly steady over the next few quarters, as weakness in oil-producing provinces is offset by greater activity in other sectors. Forecasters also predict that Ontario and B.C. will lead job growth in Canada this year.
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