Employment in Canada rose unexpectedly in March, offering cautious optimism the country’s labour market was gradually recovering amid weak oil prices.
Overall employment increased by 29,000 in March, following a decline of 1,000 in February, Statistics Canada reported on Friday. A median estimate of economists called for no change in March.
The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.8 percent after climbing 0.2 percentage point the previous month. The February increase was largely attributed to an increase in job-seekers. Labour force participation was little changed in March at 65.9 percent, official data showed.
Over the first quarter the economy added 63,000 jobs, mostly the result of part-time work. In the 12 months through March, employment increased by 138,000 or 0.8 percent, with most of the gains in full-time work.
On a regional basis, employment in Alberta – home of Canada’s oil and gas sector – was little changed in March. The province experienced no growth in the first quarter, but saw employment rise 1.9 percent year-on-year. The provincial economy is expected to enter into a mild recession this year stemming from the oil price collapse.
The Bank of Canada is forecasting slower economic growth this year, as declining oil prices weighs on the domestic economy. Canada’s GDP shrunk by 0.1 percent in January, a sign the economy may have stalled or even contracted in the first quarter. The BOC expects most of the negative impact of weak prices will appear in the first half of the year. GDP is forecast to expand just 1.5 percent annually in June, well below the Bank’s previous forecast.
On an industry level, employment increased in retail and wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, natural resources and educational services. Employment declined in construction and agriculture, official data showed.