Despite some analysts’ predictions to the contrary, Canada continued to add jobs in December.

Statistics Canada said Friday that employment rose by nearly 40,000 last month, the fourth increase in the last five months. December’s growth was all in full-time work while the unemployment rate declined 0.1 percentage points to 7.1 per cent, the lowest in four years.

The National Post points out economists were anticipating a job growth of around 5,000 for December, after a surge of more than 59,000 in November. Forecasts for the unemployment rate also missed the mark, with analysts expecting it to actually rise slightly to 7.3 per cent, the Post said.

Full-time hiring was actually up 41,200 in December, but part-time positions declined by 1,400 for a net new job total of 39,800, Statistics Canada reported.

Employment rose among private sector employees in December, up 59,000, while there was little change in public sector employment and self-employment.

Most provinces saw employment gains in December – Ontario led the way with a rise of 33,000 – although numbers did decline in Nova Scotia, Alberta and New Brunswick.

Among industries, employment increased in transportation and warehousing, up 22,000, while construction saw an increase of 18,000. However, there were 42,000 fewer workers in professional, scientific and technical services. Public administration also declined in December, by 13,000.

Speaking to the National Post, CIBC World Markets chief economist Avery Shenfeld said December’s employment report seem out of line with the weak GDP numbers that have been seen in recent quarters. He said that if job increases “were being backed by corresponding GDP gains, it would hint that rate hikes would come much sooner than the market has priced in.”

Shenfeld continued: “But we continue to question the sustainability of this hiring trend in the absence of the output gains that would typically be needed to require all that labour input.”

As for the entire 2012 picture, Statistics Canada said the highest employment growth rates over the last year were in educational services (+8.5 per cent); finance, insurance, real estate and leasing (+6.4 per cent); business, building and other support services (+5.5 per cent); manufacturing (+3.1 per cent); and health care and social assistance (+2.9 per cent).

For all the numbers, check out Statistics Canada’s website here.

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