OTTAWA - Canada's economy hammered out a surprisingly healthy 34,300 new jobs last month, topping expectations of only modest gains and completely reversing the previous month's setback.
Analysts had expected the economy to add only about 10,000 jobs in August, reflecting the slow pace of growth and risk-filled nature of the global outlook.
The details of the August jobs report from Statistics Canada were not as strong as the headline number suggested, however, as all the gains were part-time jobs. As well, there were heavy losses in the goods producing sector, which generally pays higher wages.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.3 per cent — where it has been for most of the past year— as the labour force grew in step with the employment gains.
Last week, the agency confirmed expectations that economic growth in Canada had slowed from the previous year with a modest advance of 1.8 per cent annualized in the first half of 2012.
The August report was almost a direct mirror image of the disappointing July data, when Statistics Canada reported the economy had shed 30,400. Even more striking, almost all the losses in July came in Quebec and were part time, whereas in August almost all the gains— 32,500 — were also located in the province and part time.
The July report came as bad news for the governing Quebec Liberals, who at the time were in the middle of a tough re-election campaign they eventually wound up losing.
With the latest gains, Statistics Canada said employment in Canada has increased by one per cent, or by 177,000 jobs, over the past year, with most of the gains in full-time work. Over the past two months, the number of hours worked by Canadians has risen by 0.7 per cent.
The August numbers went against the grain. All the increase came in part-time work, which added 46,700 employees, while there were 12,500 fewer full-time workers.
Meanwhile, goods producing industries shed 36,400 workers overall during the month, with construction dropping 44,000 jobs and manufacturing also down slightly.
The gainers were in the services sector, more than making up the slack by adding 70,600 jobs. Transportation and warehousing was up 37,000; professional, scientific and technical services, 20,000; building and other support services, 19,000; and natural resources up 8,800 workers.
Regionally, aside from Quebec, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba also registered significant job increases, while Ontario saw a decline of almost 25,000 jobs.