Canada sheds 88000 net jobs, but sees full-time gains

Unemployment rate by province
Source Statistics Canada

The unemployment rate rose to 6.5 per cent in January, up from 6.2 per cent the month before.

Although Ontario shed 51,000 jobs in January, Statistics Canada data suggest the losses are not attributable to the province's decision to raise the minimum hourly rate to $14 from $11.60 last month. Big grocers such as Loblaw Cos. and Empire Co. said the wage hike would cost them hundreds of millions of dollars and may accelerate a move to automation like self-serve checkouts.

"Market participants are getting schooled in the ways of Canada's employment numbers, and the lesson seems to be that when they're too good to be true, they might not be", CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld said in a note.

In January 2017, the island's labour force consisted of 54,800 people with 47,100 employed and 7,700 unemployed. The drop in January was the first decline since July 2016, and ended the longest stretch of gains since 2000.

Rocco Rossi, president of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, said the numbers "reflect the concerns we have heard from businesses for months".

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To partially offset the declines, Statistics Canada said the economy added 49,000 full-time positions last month.

Ontario's unemployment rate was 5.5 per cent in January.

Economists look at the number of jobs in a community rather than the unemployment in determining an area's economic health.

Economists said January's hefty drop was to be expected after such a strong year and was unlikely to change the Bank of Canada's trajectory of more interest rate hikes to come in 2018.

Ontario wasn't alone in seeing a drop in part-time work.

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Statistics Canada says the local economy was stagnant in January with little change in jobs but an increase in the jobless rate.

Broken down by industry, the impact is no clearer.

Major gains were made in public administration, accommodation and food services, and building and other support services.

"Today's sour news is at least in part an offset to the unusually strong gains seen late previous year, and most likely does not represent the start of new trend". Wholesale and retail trade, where about 40 percent of employees are at or below the minimum wage, lost 15,500 jobs on the month, the most in more than a year. On a net basis, Ontario's job losses towered over the rest of the country which suggests something may be afoot. "But Ontario employs 40 per cent of Canadians", she said.

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