04/10/2015 08:43 EDT

Canada's Unemployment Rate At 6.8% As Economy Unexpectedly Adds Jobs

Canada's labour market surprised in March, churning out 29,000 new jobs, far exceeding economists' expectations of a decline of 10,000.

But Statistics Canada said the job gains were largely due to increases in part-time work; the country lost 28,000 full-time jobs. And much of the increase was due to government hiring, with public-sector jobs up 27,000.

The unemployment rate stayed steady at 6.8 per cent.

Despite the oil price collapse, Alberta's job numbers were flat and Saskatchewan actually saw employment rise by 7,000. Employment was little changed in Quebec and Ontario.

Among the winners were trade-related jobs, up by nearly 20,000, and -- perhaps surprisingly -- natural resource jobs, up 6,300. On the negative side, construction lost 12,100 jobs and manufacturing lost 2,400.

StatsCan noted in its release that most of the increase in jobs over the past year went to the 55-plus age group. Youth unemployment and employment among the core 25-54 working-age group was little changed in March, the agency said.

"The bar was set pretty low for this employment release and it managed to clear it," Bank of Montreal chief economist Douglas Porter said in a note to investors.

"While the details were mixed, at best, any gain is better than the alternative given how the economy struggled out of the gate in 2015. Overall, the point is that the labour market is grinding out very modest gains amid an economy that is grinding out very modest growth."

Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Markets, said the March job numbers take the pressure off the Bank of Canada to further cut interest rates next week.

"On balance, the numbers will give a much needed dose of optimism after a deluge of weak data for January-February," Shenfeld said in an investors' note.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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