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Canada generates 50,700 jobs in February; unemployment rate unchanged at 7


Canada’s economy showed signs it may be ready to bust out of its half-year funk by churning out a surprisingly strong 50,700 new jobs in February, most of them full-time, in the private sector and in Ontario, but manufacturing jobs continued to show signs of weakness.

The big gain was enough to keep the unemployment rate at the four year low of 7.0 per cent despite the fact over 60,000 Canadians joining the labour force in the month, another good signal for the economy.

Regionally, Ontario was the biggest generator of new jobs, adding 35,300, followed by British Columbia with an increase of 19,800. Quebec had the biggest drop in employment, shedding 13,100 jobs.

Economists had expected a second weak month in February given that most indicators have been pointing to modest growth and January saw an outright loss of nearly 22,000 jobs. The forecast had been for about 8,000 new jobs.

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But instead markets are likely to be buoyed by the result, particularly as the economy also got some welcome news on Thursday with a report showing exports had rebounded in January.

Investors will also be encouraged by similarly strong U.S. employment data, released Friday at about the same time.

The Canadian dollar surged shortly after the two announcements. It was rose to 97.67 cents US, up 0.53 of a cent from the Thursday close.

The details of the Statistics Canada’s employment report were almost as strong as the headline number. Most of the new workers were employees, rather than in the weaker self-employment category, in the private sector and full-time jobs beat out part-time positions two-to-one.

If there was a weak link, it came in the manufacturing, which continued its losing streak of the past few months. The factory sector dropped 25,600 workers in February, putting it in negative territory overall for the past 12 moths.

The latest result continues a trend of the labour market outperforming the general drift of the economy, which is known to have grown at a tepid 0.7 per cent during in the last half of 2012.

Yet, Statistics Canada said the country has managed to add 336,000 new jobs over the past 12 months, almost all full-time. As well, total hours worked increased by 1.9 per cent.

Later Friday morning, economists are expected to present Finance Minister Jim Flaherty with a new outlook for this year’s economy that points to growth picking up from last year’s poor second half, but still remaining below two per cent for the year as a whole.

In February, Statistics said about 26,000 new jobs were created in the scientific and technical services sector. There were also 21,000 additional workers in the accommodation and food services, which may have been partly due to resumption of NHL hockey in late January. Public administration and agriculture also saw gains.

—The Canadian Press