Canada’s economy ended 2010 on a stronger employment footing, creating 22,000 new jobs overall in December and recording substantial gains in full-time, private sector and youth employment.
The additional jobs were enough to keep pace with an increase in the size of the labour force, hence the country’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.6 per cent.
But the most encouraging aspect of the December labour market survey was that key areas of the economy showed marked improvement after five consecutive months of weak results.
Statistics Canada said private sector employment increased by 53,000 last month as many who were officially counted as self-employed returned to regular jobs. Full-time employment rose by 38,000 — although over the past 12 months, the vast majority of new jobs have been part-time.
And in another surprise, there was a big pickup of 26,000 in youth employment following a large decline in labour force participation from the 15- 24-year-old group in November.
Another good sign for the economy was that the goods sector, particularly manufacturing, registered the biggest monthly gain since the recession. The battered factory sector hammered out 66,000 new jobs last month, the strongest month seen since 1976, with most of the jobs located in Ontario and Quebec.
Employment in the related transportation and warehousing industries also saw sizable gains, with 45,000 new jobs created. The agency said this sector has grown by 10.8 per cent in the past year.
Meanwhile, natural resources added 7,700 new jobs.
The December increases were in line with economists expectations for the month, but the strength of the underlying numbers — that there were big spikes in full-time, private sector and in the goods sector — will be significant for the recovery if they are sustained in future months.
There were some notable weaknesses in the report, as well, as construction saw a decline of 27,000, wholesale and retail trade fell off by 22,000, and health-care and social assistance jobs fell by 24,000.
Regionally, both Ontario and Quebec saw solid increases of 23,000 and 25,000 respectively, while British Columbia saw employment fall by 23,000.