OTTAWA — The Canadian labour force received a boost of 22,800 net jobs last month, thanks to a big gain in part-time work, Statistics Canada said Friday.
The federal agency's latest jobs survey found that positions in the more-desirable category of full-time employment actually fell in December by 6,400. The economy added 29,200 part-time jobs last month.
A closer look at the jobs data also showed that self-employed positions rose by 40,300 last month.
The national unemployment rate for December remained unchanged at 7.1 per cent.
"Don't pull the curtain back to look behind the strong Canadian employment gain in December, because the picture doesn't look nearly as pretty when you do," said Avery Shenfeld of CIBC Economics in a note to clients.
"All told, a nice headline masking a continuing trend for weak hiring by private sector companies in Canada."
A consensus of economists had projected the economy would add 10,000 positions last month and for the jobless rate to stay at 7.1 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.
By region, the report said Ontario's unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 per cent from 6.9 per cent as it added 34,900 net positions in December, including increases of 26,600 jobs in the services sector and 8,200 in goods production. Of the new jobs created last month in Ontario, 42,200 of them were full-time work.
The December increase follows a drop of 35,700 jobs in November, a decline largely caused by the previous month's rise in temporary work likely generated by the federal election.
The report released Friday also contained a year-end review that said national employment rose by 0.9 per cent in 2015 as the labour force bulked up by 158,000 net jobs.
The 2015 employment growth rate was slightly stronger than in 2014 and 2013, when the overall number of jobs expanded by just 0.7 per cent in each of those years.
Employment in British Columbia grew by 2.3 per cent last year — the highest rate of any province — as it added 52,000 jobs.
Resource-rich Newfoundland and Labrador was the only province that experienced a decline in employment last year. Its employment rate decreased 1.8 per cent as it shed 4,300 jobs. For 2015, the provincial unemployment rate rose 2.6 percentage points to 14.4 per cent.
The year-end data says employment fell by 6.8 per cent in the battered natural resources industry following the sharp slide in commodity prices. The manufacturing sector, which was expected to benefit from the lower dollar, increased by 2.1 per cent in 2015.
Statistics Canada also released fresh figures Friday on building permits.
The agency said municipalities issued $6.2 billion worth of building permits in November, down 19.6 per cent from October.
The value of residential building permits totalled $4 billion in November, a decline of 17.8 per cent from the previous month. Meanwhile, permits for non-residential buildings in November was $2.2 billion, which was 22.7 per cent lower than October.
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Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press