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Canadian unemployment rate slips to 7.6 per cent as April brings 58,300 job gain

OTTAWA – Canada’s economy stepped up a gear in April, pumping out a surprisingly strong 58,300 jobs — almost all of them in the province of Ontario and a big portion of them part-time.

The impressive gain in the headline number was enough to trim the unemployment rate to 7.6 per cent, down 0.1 per cent from the previous month, matching the lowest jobless level since the early months of the recession.

April’s gains bring the year-over-year increase in employment to 283,000.

Although the headline number exaggerates the strength of the labour market, the monthly pick-up was nonetheless impressive.

Economists had expected a more modest 20,000 gain following a weak March, although they left themselves open to an upside surprise for possible one-time hiring for the federal election.

There was little evidence the election was a major factor, however.

Almost all the gains — 54,800 — came in the province of Ontario and most were in the services sector. In particular, finance, insurance, real estate and leasing saw a 19,000 jobs gain, and business, building and other support services chipped in with 17,000 new jobs.

The goods sector saw only a modest 6,600 pick-up, and the key manufacturing and construction sectors were mostly flat.

However, manufacturing and construction have seen increases in employment of 3.3 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively over the past year.

The weakness in the report is that 41,100 of the new jobs were part time, an indication that Canada’s labour market is still not pumping on all cylinders.

Still April saw one milestone met. The 17,200 increase in full-time work was sufficient for that category to return to the level that existed before the 2008-2009 recession, although total hours worked remains slightly in arrears.

And most of the new jobs were in the employee class, rather than self-employment, as well as in the private sector.

Regionally, the story was all in Ontario, which saw its unemployment rate drop to 7.9 per cent, the lowest since December 2008. The province has seen an increase of 157,000 jobs, or 2.4 per cent, over the past 12 months, all of them full-time in the aggregate.

April was less kind to most of the rest of the country. While Newfoundland and Labrador saw a significant 3,100 jobs increase, six out of 10 provinces experienced an overall drop in employment levels, although all were modest relative to their population.

Meantime, American employers added more than 200,000 jobs in April for the third straight month, which is the biggest hiring spree in five years.

However, the unemployment rate rose to nine per cent in part because some people resumed looking for work.