A streetside vendor hands a Japadog hot dog, named after Japan's figure skater Mao Asada, to a customer before the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics February 11, 2010. The pair of Japadog stands are proving popular with Japanese tourists and press attending the Olympics. Chris Helgren/Reuters
Canada gained 29,400 jobs in January, which pushed down the unemployment rate 0.2 percentage points to seven per cent, according to the latest labour force survey released today by Statistics Canada.
The January increase was higher than the 20,000 new jobs that economists had expected and was a welcome turnaround from the 45,900 jobs lost in December.
A rise in full-time work was mainly responsible for the job gains, the agency said, with 50,500 full-time positions added in January, while part-time employment declined by 21,100.
"While no ball of fire, today's solid comeback represents a nice recovery from the ugliness in last month's Canadian employment report," BMO Capital Markets chief economist Doug Porter said in a report.
"Notably, though, the unemployment rate at 7.0 per cent is precisely unchanged from three months ago and from a year ago. In other words, the underlying trend in job growth is just firm enough to keep up with labour force population growth-no better, no worse."
The dollar responded positively to the news, inching up 0.42 of a cent to 90.75 cents US. The S&P/TSX composite index was ahead 28.26 points to 13,741.66.
Accommodation, food services see biggest gains
The biggest job gains last month were in the accommodation and food-services sector, with an increase of 17,000 workers, followed by health and social services, which gained 16,900 jobs, and professional, scientific and technical services, which added 16,600 positions.
Business, building and other support services lost 25,400 jobs, which brought employment in that sector back to what it was 12 months earlier, Statistics Canada said.
Public administration shed 16,000 jobs in January, and when compared with a year earlier, employment was down 58,000, a drop of 5.8 per cent. That, Statistics Canada said, made it the only industry with an employment decline over the period.
Overall, the public sector saw a gain of 14,700 jobs and the private sector shed 13,600 workers.
The proportion of people (employed or underemployed) actively looking for work, known as the labour force participation rate, remained virtually unchanged at 66.3 per cent, compared to 66.4 per cent a month earlier.
U.S. jobless rate lowest since October 2008
According to other figures released Friday, the U.S. added 113,000 jobs, fewer than the monthly average for 2013, which was 194,000, but more than the 75,000 jobs gained in December, the lowest increase in three years.
Economists had been expecting a gain of about 180,000 positions. Payroll firm ADP had said on Wednesday that the private sector in the U.S. had added 175,000 jobs, although its numbers are usually higher than the official government figures.
The U.S. unemployment rate decreased slightly in January to 6.6 per cent, the lowest it has been since October 2008 and down from 6.7 per cent in December 2013.
There were also more people participating in the labour force in January, which pushed up the participation rate 0.2 percentage points from December to 63 per cent.
The weak job results had some in the U.S. wondering whether the Federal Reserve's decision in December to start scaling back its economic stimulus measures may have been premature.
Recent signs of tepid growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector and trouble in the emerging economies of countries such as China, Turkey and India have roiled world markets.
In early trading Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 73.81 points to 15,702.34, the Nasdaq moved up 34.77 points to 4,091.89 while the S&P 500 were up 12.74 points to 1,786.17.
Some took the gains in the markets as a sign that traders think the lukewarm jobs numbers in the U.S. will mean that the Fed will hold off on making further cuts to its stimulus program, but not everybody agreed with that interpretation.
"Given the strength of economic growth in the second half of last year, we expect to see a rebound in the monthly gains over the next few months," said Paul Ashworth, a Capital Economics economist, who expects the Fed to continue to wind down its stimulus program.