07/06/2012 10:13 EDT | Updated 09/05/2012 05:12 EDT

Slight June job gains beat expectations

Canada's job market was little changed for the second consecutive month in June, but fewer people searching for work pushed the unemployment rate slightly lower to 7.2 per cent.

Statistics Canada said Friday the economy added 7,300 jobs during the month. Ordinarily, that wouldn't be a large enough gain to move the unemployment rate one way or the other. But 16,800 people dropped out of the official labour force during the month, which pushed the unemployment rate lower.

Much of the gain came from the public sector, which added 38,900 jobs. The private sector shed 26,000 jobs.

The relatively flat showing was slightly better than what economists were expecting. A consensus of those polled by Bloomberg were forecasting about 5,000 new jobs.

It was also the second flat month in a row on the heels of two stunning months — March and April — when the economy added 140,000 jobs in total.

Regionally, employment rose in Ontario, where Canada's most populous province added 20,200 new full-time jobs. The jobs number was little changed in the other provinces.

Demographically, the jobs picture looked bleaker for young workers. Some 63.2 per cent of Canadians aged 20-24 had jobs in June 2012, down from 67.4 per cent in the same month last year.

That employment level is "the lowest June employment rate since comparable data became available in 1977," the data agency said.

Given the gloomy overall global backdrop, Jimmy Jean of Desjardins Capital Markets called the Canadian employment result fair. "It could have been much worse," Jean said.

"While far from scorching, the moderate job gains in Canada are nevertheless welcome," BMO economist Doug Porter said in a note. "Given the chilly U.S. employment picture, as well as plenty of signs that the broader Canadian economy is sluggish, more moderate job growth is likely to be the norm in the second half of the year."