News that 50,000 new, full-time jobs were created last month was welcomed cautiously by economists last week.
Statistics Canada said the unemployment rate edged down to 7.3 per cent in April from 7.5 per cent in March. It was the lowest rate of unemployment since September 2001.
Analysts said this should prompt the Bank of Canada to hold its key overnight rate at 2%.
"The strong April job tally will promptly have quashed any talk of further rate cuts from the Bank of Canada," said Marc Levesque of TD Bank.
Most of the new jobs went to women and young people and virtually all were in the private sector. The increase was especially evident among the self-employed, with a gain of 35,000, offsetting declines of the previous two months.
Warren Lovely of CIBC World Markets said the unlooked-for job creation breathed new life into the labour market, but he had a warning.
"As Canada demonstrated last year, jobs and real GDP growth don't always go hand in hand," he said. "And the real question remains: Will today's new employees be any more successful in generating additional economic output?"
David Wolf of Royal Bank said job growth was stronger than expected, but looked like more of a rebound from first-quarter weakness than the start of an uptrend. "Canadian employment looks to be rising, but sluggishly."
Levesque said the April rally won't likely be sustained. "Nonetheless, Canada's job market still appears to be holding on to its health, and modest job gains should still be in store, on balance, over the next few months."
The largest increase in the number of self-employed was mainly in health care and social assistance, which worries Andrew Jackson, senior economist for the Canadian Labour Congress.
"The fact that much of the growth was in health and social services indicates that it may have been driven by privatization and contracting-out," he said. "Non-professionals who are self-employed are usually paid much less and have more insecure jobs than employees."
The business, building and other support services sectors also showed growth.
So far this year, full-time employment has grown by 117,000, while part-time employment has fallen by 87,000.
More young people found work in April, after four months of declining employment. The youth unemployment rate edged down by almost half a percentage point to 13.9 per cent.
The CLC says that's still too high.
The largest employment gains for youths were in accommodation and food services, as well as information, culture and recreation.
Adult women found 21,000 additional jobs last month, offsetting a decline in March. That continued an upward trend that began last summer that has created 134,000 jobs.
The job rate for adult men has changed little so far this year, after gains in the last four months of 2003.
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