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Better Canadian job gains

Canadian job gains better than economists' predictions

There were 12,000 more British Columbians working in January, Statistics Canada reported Friday, continuing an upward trend for job growth that began last July.

The province's unemployment rate also dropped slightly, down 0.2 per cent to 8.1 per cent for the month.

Nationally, 43,000 Canadians got back into the workforce in January, about three times more than what economists were expecting.

The national unemployment rate fell to 8.3 per cent from a revised 8.4 per cent in December.

The national results were better than the expectations of economists, who were calling for 15,000 additional people working last month and a jobless rate of 8.5 per cent.

This comes after a revised loss of 28,300 people from the job market in December. But it was the fourth employment gain in six months.

The employment growth in January was largely driven by women and youth. It was the first notable increase in employment among young people since the jobs slump started in the fall of 2008, Statistics Canada said.

The private sector was responsible for all of the gains, and it was mostly from part-time positions. The number of people employed full time was flat, and there was a decline in the number of people self-employed.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the employment figures show the job market is beginning to stabilize.

"The recovery remains very fragile, but we have seen in the last six months some stability in the job market," Harper said during a short news conference in Saskatoon on Friday. "We've actually seen some net job creation so that's good news, but obviously we have to keep working all of our levels of government to make sure projects continue to roll out to make sure this recovery takes hold."

Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist with BMO Capital Markets, called the concentration of job gains in the part-time category "a big but," adding that "part-time jobs are better than none."

"While the details of this report were less impressive than the headline results, there is little doubt that the job market is grinding forward," Porter added in a research note.

The president of the Canadian Auto Workers said the fact that January's job gains came almost exclusively from part-time work shows that there is not, in fact, a true economic recovery underway.

"Instead it means that more Canadians are ending up in precarious employment, characterized by irregular hours, little job security, low wages and few benefits," CAW president Ken Lewenza said in a statement. "This is really nothing to cheer about."

Statistics Canada said the level of employment in Canada remains 280,000 less than the peak in October 2008.

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