Canada's job market bounced back in December, adding a healthy 23,000 jobs for the month, Statistics Canada said Friday.
But the latest Labour Force Survey shows an uneven and regionally divided job market: Only Ontario added a significant number of jobs, while four provinces -- Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, P.E.I. and Saskatchewan -- saw job losses.
Most of the employment gains were in the 55-plus age group, while employment in other groups was unchanged. The national unemployment rate stayed steady at 7.1 per cent.
CIBC economist Avery Shenfeld noted that the gain was entirely in "self-employment" -- often a euphemism for unemployment.
"Don’t pull the curtain back to look behind the strong Canadian employment gain in December, because the picture doesn’t look nearly as pretty when you do," Shenfeld wrote.
"Employers weren’t showing the same enthusiasm, with both private and public sector paid positions falling on the month, and private sector employment now showing virtually no growth from a year ago."
Canada's jobless rate has risen from lows seen in 2014 and 2015. (StatsCan chart)
Employment was little changed in recession-riddled Alberta, where losses in full-time jobs offset gains in part-time work, StatsCan said. Employment was also little changed in Quebec.
For 2015 as a whole, StatsCan said Canada added 0.9 per cent new jobs, better than the 0.7 per cent rate seen in 2014 and 2013.
British Columbia led the way in job growth in 2015, adding a whopping 2.3 per cent new jobs. Ontario and Quebec also saw job growth in 2015 that was faster than the national average, adding 1.2 per cent new jobs.
Experts say central Canada's economy benefited from lower oil prices putting more money into consumer's pockets, while a lower loonie has boosted exports.