OTTAWA — Canada unexpectedly lost 28,900 net jobs in April, delivering the biggest one-month employment blow to the economy this year.
Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey, released Friday, found the unemployment rate remained steady at 6.9 per cent for the second straight month, suggesting that some Canadians had given up looking for work.
The report dampened optimism of economists, who, according to Thomson Reuters, had anticipated an increase of 12,000 jobs for April.
The last time the Canadian economy saw such a drop was December 2013, when it lost 44,000 jobs.
“There’s no question this was a bit of a disappointment,” said Douglas Porter, chief economist with the Bank of Montreal.
“It continues a trend we’ve seen over the last six months of down then up, and up then down. So we’re seeing a see-saw action in Canadian employment.”
Looking at the broader picture, the April losses followed a gain of 42,900 net new jobs in March, which means 14,000 jobs were added over the two-month period.
Porter said that beyond the monthly volatility, the take-home message is that Canadian job growth is cooling.
“Over the past year, it’s just been strong enough to slightly chip away at the unemployment rate,” he said.
“But we’re really not seeing a big improvement on that front.”
The report showed 30,900 full-time jobs were lost in April, compared with the addition of 2,000 positions in part-time employment.
The Statistics Canada data said the employment numbers dropped in seven of the 10 provinces, including Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island. Quebec saw the biggest plunge, losing 32,000 jobs.
Meanwhile, Ontario created 17,600 jobs in April, the most of any province.
The report found there were 27,100 fewer jobs held by young Canadians aged 15-24, while the youth unemployment rate stayed put at 13.4 per cent.
The biggest April loss struck the accommodation and food services industry, where 32,200 fewer people found work.
Employment in finance, insurance, real estate and leasing dropped by 19,400, while jobs were created for the second consecutive month in business, building and other support services, which saw an increase of 26,100.
The survey found that the number of employees plunged in April to a loss of 46,000 jobs, a figure that was offset in part by the addition of 17,200 self-employed positions.
Derek Burleton, deputy chief economist for TD Economics, said in a statement, said the “employment pendulum continues to swing violently.”
“The extent of the weakness in job creation in recent months has been surprising given the reasonably positive readings flowing from employer surveys and signs of continued moderate growth in the economy,” he said.
“While there had been hope that this puzzle would have been solved today with a strong employment reading, we continue to be left waiting.”
Economists remain optimistic for 2014 and Burleton said he’s confident Canada’s labour market will improve later this year with a boost from stronger economic growth.
Others found positives within the data for certain areas of the job market.
Tom Turpin of the Randstad Canada recruiting company said new construction projects across the country have hiked the need for skilled trades, industrial support and management by 30 per cent compared to 2013.
“Considering the job loss, there is still a silver lining within certain industry sectors that are experiencing a spike in demand,” he said.
Several experts also warned that April’s numbers should be viewed with caution, considering that Good Friday fell on the survey week.
CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld said Statcan’s seasonal adjustments does not fully control for the shifting time of that holiday, when fewer hours are worked and Canadians often take more time off.
“The last time Good Friday fell in the survey week for April was in 2003,” Shenfeld said in a statement.
“In that case, not only did hours worked take a nose dive, but employment dropped (13,000) vs. an average gain of nearly (30,000) in the six months leading up to that month.”