03/08/2013 09:27 EST | Updated 05/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Economy surprises with 51,000 new jobs

Canada created 51,000 new jobs in February, blowing past expectations thanks to an increase in full-time work.

Statistics Canada reported that the unemployment rate remained steady at seven per cent during the month. That's because the number of new jobs was almost the same as the number of new job-seekers.

The numbers were six times bigger than the consensus 8,000 jobs that economists had been expecting.

The gains were broad-based, as the increase was spread between full- and part-time work. More than half of the new jobs came from the private sector.

Gains were fairly consistent across most industries, too. The only major category to post a decline in jobs was manufacturing.

At a press conference in Ottawa where he discussed pre-budget consultations, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he was encouraged by the strong showing.

"We're at a situation where we have almost gained a million jobs since the end of the recession in July 2009," he noted.

By province, Ontario and British Columbia made up most of the gains, with 35,000 and almost 20,000 new jobs respectively.

Manitoba was the lone province to lose jobs, with 3,200 fewer. All other provinces were unchanged or saw slight gains.

The strong jobs figure is a return to the trend seen at the end of 2012, when the Canadian economy was adding an average of more than 30,000 jobs a month for the last six months of the year.

That suddenly changed in January with 22,000 jobs disappearing. But Friday's data suggests that may have been an anomaly.

"The booming job growth that was evident over the second half of 2012 returned in February after a short retracement in January," said Royal Bank of Canada economist Paul Ferley.