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OTTAWA, June 5 (Reuters) - Canada's economy added 58,900 jobs in May, handily topping expectations and the biggest gain since October, helped by a surge in employment in the manufacturing sector, data from Statistics Canada showed on Friday.
Economists had expected a gain of just 10,000 jobs last month. A tick up in the participation rate saw the unemployment rate hold steady at 6.8 percent.
Manufacturing firms added 21,500 positions, with employment in the sector rising for the second month in a row. Gains were seen in a variety of other industries, including an increase of 20,700 jobs in health care and social assistance and 16,800 in trade.
The natural resources sector, which includes oil and gas extraction, shed 2,400 jobs. Oil is a major export for Canada, and the cheaper price of crude contributed to the economy's contraction in the first quarter.
The province of Alberta, where the country's vast oil sands are located, lost 6,400 jobs, while Ontario added 43,900 jobs. Economists have been looking for Ontario to benefit from cheaper oil and a weaker Canadian dollar.
Overall job creation was concentrated in the private sector, which added 56,800 positions, while the public sector lost 19,100 jobs. The participation rate edged up to 65.9 percent from 65.8 percent.
Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Paul Simao