Canadian Unemployment Rate Unchanged

Canada added 17,900 jobs last month, but it wasn't enough to budge the national unemployment rate from 8.2 percent.

OTTAWA (CP) -- Canada's run at adding jobs continued last month, but the 17,900 gain reported on Friday disappointed expectations of a bigger pick-up.

The modest addition, all of them in the part-time category, wasn't enough to budge the national unemployment rate from 8.2 percent.

Even more disappointing is that March saw a decline of 14,200 full-time jobs, which was counter-balanced by a 32,200-increase in part-time jobs.

The Canadian dollar, which had been trading overseas above US$1 just prior to the Statistics Canada report, dropped below parity again immediately afterwards.

Economists had been expecting 26,000 net new jobs in March after several strong employment reports earlier in the year.

However, BMO Capital Markets issued a note saying there were many positive aspects in the March jobs figures -- particularly in Ontario and Quebec, which added 10,300 and 6,300 jobs respectively.

"Despite the below-consensus gain, Canadian employment has risen in the first three months of 2010, the best string since late 2008, while Q1's increase of 0.4 percent is the strongest since 2008Q1 (the first quarter of 2008)," the BMO Capital report said.

"Canada's recovery continues to gain steam, and these figures should keep the Bank of Canada on track for a July start to rate hikes."

There has been widespread debate about just exactly when Canada's central bank will begin to push up its key interest rates in an effort to remove economic stimulus and prevent inflation from getting out of hand.

The Bank of Canada has said it would likely keep its policy rate at an all-time low of 0.25 percent until the end of the second quarter unless unacceptably high inflation emerged -- a potential symptom of a unsustainable economic growth.

In recent weeks, almost all of Canada's major indicators have been positive.

Earlier this week, the Paris-based Organization of Economy Co-operation and Development, predicted Canada will lead other G7 countries in the recovery with a massive 6.2 percent growth rate in the first quarter of 2010.

March's employment data did contain a sprinkling of strong news, including that the critical private sector added 42,400 jobs, and that all the net job gains were employees, rather than in the self-employment sector.

As well, Statistics Canada noted that the goods producing sector picked up 39,800 jobs during the month, with construction adding 21,000, and manufacturing and extraction also showing gains.

"Following significant losses (212,000) in manufacturing employment between October 2008 and June 2009, employment in this industry has stabilized, with March being the sixth consecutive month of little or no change," Statistics Canada stated.

Still, the manufacturing sector remains down 286,000 workers since October 2008, when the recession hit Canada's shores.

In March, most of the losses came in the services sector, with the notable exception of the 38,000 gain in the professional, scientific and technical services category. Other services, which included repair and maintenance and laundry services, were down 30,000, and losses also occurred in the business, building and other support services, and in transportation and warehousing.

Regionally, Ontario and Quebec were responsible for almost all the national increase in employment, adding 10,300 and 6,300 jobs respectively.

Scotia Capital issued a note saying the jobs report sparked a wave of Canadian dollar sales that quickly took the currency down below parity.

Bank of Montreal's currency desk said the Canadian dollar had been as high as 100.01 cents US before the Statistics Canada report. It opened about one-tenth of a cent below that, at 99.90 cents US, shortly after the report.

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