TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada welcomed a record number of temporary and permanent residents last year, the federal government said on Friday.
The surge was fueled by a 12 percent increase in temporary foreign workers coming to help counter a growing labor shortage, caused by aging baby boomers leaving the workforce and a growing economy, especially the energy sector.
Last year, Canada admitted 429,649 permanent residents, temporary foreign workers and foreign students.
That is about 60,000 more than the number admitted in 2003.
"That's the highest ever for those three categories," said Doug Kellam, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
"You've got a booming economy out west and employers are stating they have a need for employees that is not being able to be met by Canadians, so there are labor shortages that are emerging," Kellam said, adding that Ottawa has been trying to work with employers to expedite immigration processing.
Newcomers arrived from all over the world, he said. And, while official details of where they came from won't be released until June, trends are likely to follow those from 2006.
Kellam said in 2006, most permanent residents came to Canada from China and India, while most temporary foreign workers arrived from the United States and Mexico. He added that foreign students, meanwhile, moved from Korea and China.
In 2007, the number of foreign students increased by 4.6 percent.
The federal government said that more than 251,000 permanent resident visas were issued, within its target range of 240,000 to 265,000. However, 236,689 visa holders had arrived by the end of 2007.
Ottawa said it does not have control over when permanent residents use their visas as long as they are valid.
Over the past five years, Canada's population grew by 1.6 million to 31,612,897, with 1.1 million immigrants, according to the most recent census.
The government says that by 2012, immigration is expected to account for all net growth of the labor force.
Editing by Rob Wilson