OTTAWA — Canada’s economy posted a surprise job gain in March as more people found part-time work.
Statistics Canada’s latest labour market survey says the country’s jobless rate remained at 6.8 per cent in March — unchanged from the previous month — and it registered a month-to-month net gain of nearly 29,000 jobs.
Women over 55 years old, in particular, were able to find new jobs in March.
The unemployment rate matched the consensus projection of economists, who also predicted no new jobs would be created for the month, according to Thomson Reuters.
“The bar was set pretty low for this employment release and it managed to clear it,” Bank of Montreal chief economist Douglas Porter said in a note to investors.
“While the details were mixed, at best, any gain is better than the alternative given how the economy struggled out of the gate in 2015. Overall, the point is that the labour market is grinding out very modest gains amid an economy that is grinding out very modest growth.”
The gain was driven by more people finding part-time work, Statistics Canada said. The number of part-time jobs rose by 56,800 in March — offsetting a loss of 28,200 full-time positions.
Over the first quarter of the year, the economy has gained 63,000 jobs, which the agency says are mostly part-time positions.
But the agency also notes that since last March, the economy has gained 138,000 mostly full-time jobs.
Statistics Canada says more people found jobs in retail and wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, educational services and natural resources in March, while there were fewer people working in construction, public administration and agriculture.
Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Markets, said the March job numbers take the pressure off the Bank of Canada to further cut interest rates next week.
“On balance, the numbers will give a much needed dose of optimism after a deluge of weak data for January-February,” Shenfeld said in an investors’ note.
“Bullish for the (Canadian dollar), as it certainly diminishes the odds of a rate cut in the coming week, even if these data are volatile month to month.”
The survey says Saskatchewan saw its first notable increase in employment since September, as the jobless rate fell 0.6 percentage points to 4.4 per cent in March and the province gained 7,000 jobs.
There was little change from last month in energy-rich Alberta, the survey says, with gains in part-time work offsetting lost full-time jobs.
Statistics Canada also noted a spike in the number of older women who found jobs in March. There were 18,000 more women aged 55 and older working in March. There was little change in the number of men in the same age group who were working.
The influx of older women into the workforce is no surprise to Retired Workers, an employment website dedicated to helping retired Canadians find jobs. Launched in 2003, the website boasts 30,000 registered job seekers.
The website provides job listings for older Canadians as well as advice on how to dress for success and how to make a resume stand out.
Managing partner Sarah Welstead says often retired Canadians are not looking to rejoin the job force for financial reasons.
“We’re seeing an increase in the number of older workers who return to the work force after retirement simply because they want to,” she said.
Statistics Canada says that over the past year, most of the increase in total employment has been among people aged 55 and older — up 96,000, or 2.8 per cent.