OTTAWA — Employment growth in Canada sputtered in neutral last month as a net gain in Ontario jobs was offset by significant losses in Alberta — with its most dismal numbers in a decade — and in Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador, Statistics Canada said Friday.
While the national unemployment rate still crept up to 7.2 per cent from 7.1 per cent, more people entered the job market, the agency said in its latest labour force survey.
StatCan says there were 5,700 fewer jobs recorded, but the number was within the survey’s margin of error and not statistically significant.
The report found a nationwide net increase of 19,700 jobs in the services industry only partially made up for the 25,300 net drop in employment in the goods-producing sector. The decline was weighed down by big losses 13,700 positions in agriculture and 11,000 jobs in manufacturing.
By region, the oil-producing provinces of Alberta and Newfoundland were the hardest hit as their job losses climbed amid the severe oil-price slump.
Alberta, the agency said, suffered a net decline of 21,900 full-time positions in January, with the bulk of the decrease concentrated in agriculture and manufacturing. The drop was offset in part by an increase of 11,900 part-time jobs.
The decrease pushed Alberta’s unemployment rate to 7.4 per cent — its highest level since February 1996. The rate was seven per cent a month earlier.
It marked the first time Alberta’s unemployment rate was higher than the national rate since December 1988, the report said.
Meanwhile, Newfoundland showed a net decrease of 2,400 jobs — knocking employment down 3.1 per cent compared to the year before.
Manitoba lost 5,300 net jobs last month — an 0.8 per cent month-to-month drop compared to December.
CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld said the StatCan survey results amounted to a “weak report.”
“Canada’s job prospects are only just catching up to the malaise in the rest of the economy,” Shenfeld wrote in a note to clients. “Not surprisingly, it’s oil-centred Alberta where the bad news is hitting hardest.”
The agency said Ontario was the only province to show significant growth last month as it added 19,800 net positions, including 16,300 full-time jobs. Compared to a year earlier, Ontario showed a net gain of 100,200 jobs, an increase of 1.5 per cent.
The jobs data also showed that self-employed positions fell by 20,200 last month, while the net number of employee jobs increased by 14,500.
Statistics Canada also released the latest figures Friday on international merchandise trade.
It showed that Canada’s trade balance for December was negative $585 million, as total exports rose 3.9 per cent compared to November and imports climbed 1.6 per cent.
Here’s what happened provincially (previous month in brackets):
Newfoundland and Labrador 14.4 per cent (14.4)
Prince Edward Island 9.5 (9.8)
Nova Scotia 8.5 (8.6)
New Brunswick 9.3 (8.9)
Quebec 7.6 (7.9)
Ontario 6.7 (6.7)
Manitoba 6.1 (5.9)
Saskatchewan 5.6 (5.5)
Alberta 7.4 (7.0)
British Columbia 6.6 (6.7)