Canada's job market stalls

Job seekers wait in the lobby of the Lumley Bayshore for a chance to land one of approximately 100...

Job seekers wait in the lobby of the Lumley Bayshore for a chance to land one of approximately 100 jobs being offered up at a job fair held Tuesday January 3, 2012 at the Lumley Bayshore in Owen Sound. (JAMES MASTERS/QMI Agency file photo)

Jessica Murphy, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 1:39 PM ET

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper put a positive spin on the latest job numbers, which showed a small but unexpected loss of jobs in February.

Canada's job market lost a net 2,800 jobs and the unemployment rate dropped to 7.4% from a nine-month high of 7.6%.

Statistics Canada said a drop in the number of Canadians looking for work led to the slight decrease and that employment remained essentially unchanged since January.

Analysts had expected a gain of 15,000 jobs.

Speaking in Toronto on Friday, Harper opted to point to the 600,000 jobs

created in Canada over the past 2 1/2 years.

"Our economy is growing," he said. "More Canadians are working today than before the (2008) recession."

Except for a slight decrease in New Brunswick, there was little change in the provinces' job numbers. Gains in the finance, insurance and real estate sectors were offset by losses in retail, wholesale trade and transportation.

In New Brunswick, the unemployment rate edged up 0.6% to 10.1%.

"Just as the U.S. labour market finally appears to be turning the corner, Canada's job market finds itself in a funk," said Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist with BMO Capital Markets Economics.

"While this report isn't as ugly as the headline dip in employment, the main message is that the domestic economy is now clearly struggling to post meaningful growth."

Wages edged up 2.1% in 2011, less than the rate of inflation.

February's StatsCan report is the latest in a five-month stretch of gloomy job reports.

News about the U.S. job market, however, is more positive.

The U.S. saw a gain of 227,000 jobs in February, though its unemployment rate remained unchanged at the current three-year low of 8.3% because more unemployed workers began to look for work.

"Nowhere is the turn in U.S. economic momentum more pronounced than in the job market," said James Marple, senior economist with TD Economics.

"Not only were the quantity of jobs good in February, but so too was the quality of jobs."


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