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Job creation continues to stall, but unemployment rate dips in February


March 9, 2012
By Julian Beltrame The Canadian Press

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Canadians once again struggled to find work in February as jobs creation fell short of expectations with 2,800 positions lost in the month, another extension to the weak numbers that have continued since last summer.

The unemployment rate dropped to 7.4 percent as more people stopped looking for jobs, according to Statistics Canada.

Economists had expected a modest 15,000 pick-up in the month, if only because the last seven months has seen job creation slow to a trickle.

And for the fifth straight month, Canadian youth in the 15-24 age category took it on the chin, dropping another 26,800 jobs. A report by TD Bank showed there are 250,000 fewer young Canadians working today than was the case before the recession hit.

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The drop in the unemployment rate occurred not because the economy created jobs, but because the number of Canadians looking for employment fell by 37,900, all in Ontario.

Labour market contraction at a time of rising population is normally associated with discouraged workers giving up on finding employment.

After strong job growth following the 2008-2009 recession, Canada has seen this critical aspect of the economy slow and then essentially stall.

Statistics Canada noted that employment had risen by 121,000 over the past 12 months, but only about 26,000 in the past seven months, or an average of just over 3,000 a month.

Economists estimate Canada needs to churn out between 15,000 and 20,000 jobs each month just to keep up with demand from increases in population.

The biggest losses in February came in the retail and wholesale trade industries, which shed about 37,000 workers, followed by 22,000 job declines in both transportation and warehousing, and health care and social assistance.

Meanwhile, employment in finance, insurance, real estate and leasing rose by 41,000, reversing half the declines in the industries over the past five months. There were also smaller gains in educational services, business, building and other support services, natural resources, construction and manufacturing.

Regionally, six out of 10 provinces experienced job losses in February, although none were large. The only significant movement in the provincial numbers was Ontario’s 40,500 decline in the labour force.