The Canadian economy lost 39,000 jobs last month, pushing the unemployment rate up 0.1 percentage points to 7.2 per cent.
Statistics Canada reported Friday that employment declined in Quebec, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Manitoba as well as in Newfoundland and Labrador. At the same time, there were increases in Alberta, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.
The poor jobs showing was a huge miss compared with the gain of 17,000 that economists were expecting.
The July figures mean Canada has added an average of just under 11,000 jobs a month this year. That's well off the pace of 27,000 new jobs a month seen in the second half of 2012.
Altogether, the jobs figure has now declined in four of the first seven months of this year.
There were 74,000 fewer people working in the public sector in July, while the number of private sector employees was little changed, Statistics Canada said.
Employment declines were concentrated among youths aged 15 to 24, because of less hiring this July compared with previous Julys. Fewer students were working full-time, the data agency said.
By sector, there were 47,000 fewer people employed in health care and social assistance in July, following steady growth since May 2012.
Public administration jobs fell by 23,000 in July, but the jobs figure rose by 29,000 in business, building and other support services.
"Aside from providing great sport and serving as an eternal source of embarrassment for forecasters, do the wild gyrations in monthly jobs actually mean anything for the economy? Not really," BMO economist Doug Porter said of the data.
"The big picture here is that the unemployment rate is virtually unchanged from a year ago, and total employment is up 1.3 per cent, both broadly reflective of an overall economy growing modestly."