Canada lost 45,900 jobs in December, pushing the unemployment rate up 0.3 percentage points to 7.2 per cent as more people looked for work.
The monthly loss means Canada's economy only added 102,000 jobs for all of 2013, Statistics Canada said Friday.
The monthly drop is the largest since 2011.
The poor showing surprised economists, a consensus of whom polled by Bloomberg were expecting a small gain of about 14,000 jobs during the month.
Ontario lost 39,000 jobs during the month and even Alberta, a source of recent strength, shed 12,000 jobs.
British Columbia added 13,000 jobs, and by sector, health care and social assistance was a strength, adding 22,000 jobs during the month.
All in all, 60,000 full-time jobs were lost, a decline only partially offset by 14,000 new part-time jobs.
The loonie lost more ground Friday after release of the job numbers, with the dollar shedding another half-cent to trade at 91.71 cents US.
The loonie has lost more than three cents in January.