The economy shed 7,200 positions in March after a pair of strong monthly gains to start the year that helped the country still manage to close out its best quarter of job creation since late 2017, Statistics Canada said Friday.
The agency’s latest labour force survey found the unemployment rate held firm last month at 5.8 per cent.
The March decline followed monthly increases of 66,800 net new jobs in January and 55,900 in February — which was the country’s best two-month start to a year since 1981.
The employment increase over the first three months of 2019 was the strongest quarter since the final months of 2017.
“The party had to end at some point, since Canadian jobs data had outrun other signposts of economic growth so dramatically, making the small retreat in employment in March not much of a surprise,” CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld said in a research note.
Any prolonged stretch of significant job declines would be a concern for Canada, where employment has been one of the few consistent positives in an economy that has shown signs of slowing down in recent months.
Compared with a year earlier, the March report showed that Canada added 331,600 jobs for an increase of 1.8 per cent.
A loss of 6,400 full-time jobs made up the bulk of last month’s decrease, Statistics Canada said.
The number of employee positions in the private sector fell by 17,300 last month, while public-employee jobs increased by 4,200 and self-employed occupations rose by 6,000.
Employment for women in the core working age group of 25 to 54 saw a decrease of 47,600 for its biggest month-to-month decline since the start of the data series in 1976.
Year-over-year average hourly wage growth for all employees in March was 2.4 per cent, which was up from February’s reading of 2.3 per cent. For permanent employees, wage growth was 2.3 per cent, an increase from the previous reading of 2.25 per cent.
Many experts had expected the surprise job-creation surge at the start of the year to lose momentum. The average economist estimate had predicted a gain of 1,000 jobs, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters Eikon.
Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press