OTTAWA — As the federal political parties played up the latest employment numbers to their advantage on the campaign trail Friday, at least one economist warned that any job gains seen last month are likely fleeting.
The economy gained 12,000 jobs in August, bolstered by a gain in full-time employment, the federal number-crunching agency reported.
The Conservatives wasted no time latching onto the Statistics Canada report as another reason why Canadians should return them to office on Oct. 19.
But the Liberals took aim at another part of the report that showed more people were looking for work — pushing the unemployment rate higher for the first time in months — from 6.8 per cent to 7.0 per cent.
Economists had expected the economy to lose 4,500 jobs during the month, and for the unemployment rate to hold steady.
Shortly after StatsCan issued the report, Conservative candidate Tony Clement said the numbers backed up what the party has been telling voters — that Tory Leader Stephen Harper's fiscal plan is paying off despite global economic turbulence.
Just days ago, the Conservatives were forced to defend their track record when StatsCan reported the country was in recession during the first half of the year. But Clement pointed to other measures of economic activity to back his position that Canadians shouldn't gamble with their fiscal future by voting for Tom Mulcair's New Democrats or the Liberals under Justin Trudeau.
"Under Conservative economic leadership, we had strong economic growth in June, exports are up — particularly in manufacturing — and now we've seen that Canada created over 50,000 full time jobs last month," Clement said in his statement.
"This is more proof that we need to stick with Prime Minister Harper's low-tax, balanced-budget plan. Now is not the time for Justin's tax hikes and long-term, multibillion-dollar deficits, or Thomas Mulcair's NDP plan to impose an avalanche of taxes on all Canadians."
The August jobs report showed gains of 54,400 full-time positions, while part-time employment fell 42,400.
Six in 10 provinces saw more hiring: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and even Alberta, where low oil prices have shaken the provincial economy and called into question the federal Conservative hold on the province.
But the youth unemployment rate was virtually unchanged, and Nova Scotia Liberal candidate Scott Brison said the overall jobs picture has been blurred under the Conservatives.
"The youth unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at almost twice the national average," said Brison. "But this isn't just about one month or even one year; the economy has suffered and the middle class has fallen behind under Stephen Harper's decade of economic mismanagement."
Perhaps of more concern, said Leslie Preston of TD Economics, was a breakdown of the August numbers showing cyclical industries such as construction and manufacturing shed jobs.
"While it is good news that hiring in sectors like public administration and educational services are offsetting these losses for the time being, these gains are unlikely to be sustained," Preston said.
"We do expect hiring overall in Canada's economy to slow through the remainder of 2015."
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