OTTAWA — Canada's unemployment rate dropped to 6.6 per cent last month, its lowest level in more than two years, as fewer people were looking for work, Statistics Canada said Friday.
The decline of 0.2 percentage points from the previous month brought the rate down to a number not seen since January 2015.
The agency's February employment survey indicated the national labour market added 15,300 jobs overall last month, higher than analyst expectations.
Economists had projected a gain of 2,500 jobs and the unemployment rate to stay at 6.8 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.
February job gains from full-time work
"This continues the string of improving Canadian economic data and suggests that the underlying economy continues to gain steam,'' said BMO senior economist Benjamin Reitzes in a note to analysts. "One more piece of evidence that the Canadian economy has turned the corner."
The Statistics Canada report found most of the February job gains came from full-time work, offset by a decline in the number of people working part-time.
It said an estimated 105,000 more people found full-time employment last month while part-time positions dropped by 90,000. That was in contrast to the January labour market survey, which showed a surge in part-time work.
In the 12 months to February, Canada saw a net gain of 288,000 jobs with most of the increase coming in the last six months of 2016.
Women ages 25 to 54 found more work
Much of the increased job activity was seen in the West with British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba all seeing gains. In contrast, fewer people were working in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador while employment was little changed in the other five provinces.
Women in the 25-to-54 age bracket saw more work, marking the third monthly increase in that category. Men in the same age range saw employment holding steady in February after a notable increase the previous month.
Employment among youth aged 15 to 24 was little changed both in February and on a year-over-year basis. But with fewer young people seeking jobs, their unemployment rated declined by 0.9 percentage points to 12.4 per cent.