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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's economy created more high-paying jobs in 2007, boosting the quality of employment by the most since 1999 despite heavy layoffs in the manufacturing sector, a new study showed on Monday.
The employment quality index created by CIBC World Markets jumped 2.8 percent in 2007, compared to the United States, where the quality of employment fell by 1.9 percent.
"With the index currently at its highest level in more than 18 months, we expect the level of employment quality in Canada to remain elevated enough to support healthy income gains and further shield consumers from the chill coming from south of the border," said Benjamin Tal, author of the report and senior economist at CIBC World Markets.
The index reflects the ratio of full-time jobs to part-time jobs, self-employment versus paid employment and compensation packages in over 100 industry groups.
A jump in employment in high-paying sectors like public administration, computer services and the oil and gas sector explained much of the improvement in the quality index last year, CIBC said.
Despite signs of slowing economic growth, Canada's labour market continued to add jobs at a surprisingly fast rate last year. Economists took that as a sign of relative immunity to the U.S. slowdown.
Challenged by a strong Canadian dollar and the U.S. housing market crash, manufacturers shed 132,000 jobs last year.
However, the economy generated 400,000 new high-paying jobs, an increase of 3.6 percent from the previous year, while employment in low-paying sectors fell 1.2 percent.
The results support the Conservative government's argument that despite the pain in manufacturing, the rest of the economy is coping well with the tough times. In a year-end interview with Reuters, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said strong tax revenues proved to him that good-paying jobs were replacing the lost factory jobs.
As a result, personal income had risen by about 6 percent year-over-year as of the third quarter of 2007, said CIBC.
The province of Alberta, home to vast oil reserves, led the pack for employment quality. Ontario and Quebec, where 75 percent of manufacturing is based, were poor performers.
The premiers of those two provinces called on the federal government on Monday to earmark more cash in the next budget to help their beleaguered manufacturers.
CIBC predicts employment quality will deteriorate somewhat this year amid a rise in self-employment and part-time jobs.
Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Bernadette Baum