17,500 jobs added in December, but jobless rate up

Fri Jan 6, 2012 12:09pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada gained 17,500 jobs in December, but the jobless rate rose and the new positions were all part time, further evidence its post-recession hiring surge has ended even as U.S. jobs growth finally picks up the pace.

Statistics Canada data on Friday showed that the new jobs were not enough to offset the previous two months of declines.

The unemployment rate rose to its highest level since April despite the rise in employment, climbing to 7.5 percent from November's 7.4 percent, as more people participated in the job market.

"With unemployment rates moving up and only modest gains in employment, that clearly provides further reason for the Bank of Canada to hold interest rates at current stimulative levels," said RBC assistant chief economist Paul Ferley.

In the United States, the jobless rate fell to a near three-year low of 8.5 percent from 8.7 percent in November; nonfarm payrolls were up 200,000, well above expectations.

Canada's economy outperformed the United States both during and after the global financial crisis, with Canada recovering all of the jobs lost in the recession. But the reports on Friday suggested Canada's relative strength could be waning.

Derek Holt at Scotia Capital noted that in Canada the number of employees on payrolls declined, with the self-employed category picking up the slack.

"This continues the trend towards disconcerting Canadian jobs reports, and we've definitely lost momentum in Canadian jobs markets," he said.   Continued...