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6,600 is magic jobs number

Employment up in Manitoba in September

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OTTAWA -- There were 6,600 more Manitobans working in September than there were the month before and Canada's domestic economy turned in one of the strongest job creation months of the year in September, adding an eye-popping 52,100 new jobs -- five times more than economists expected.

Only Ontario and Quebec produced more new jobs than Manitoba last month, dropping the unemployment rate in this province to 5.0 per cent from 5.4 per centin August.

Over the past 12 months, 10,300 jobs have been created in the province, including 3,400 in August.

"The last two months have been terrific months," said University of Manitoba economist John McCallum. "The 12-month gains are noteworthy because that tends to smooth out the noise people talk about on the month-to-month numbers."

The manufacturing sector continues to shed jobs, with another 2,400 jobs slipping off the books in Manitoba last month, but that was offset by the 2,700 jobs created in construction.

Labour data south of the border suggest the U.S. recovery is finally underway.

The U.S. Labor Department said Friday 114,000 new jobs were created in September, More importantly, it boosted its data for July and August -- adding 86,000 jobs to those two months. For the three months, job creation averaged 146,000 and took the unemployment rate to 7.8 per cent, the lowest in four years.

The Canadian dollar jumped more than half a cent on the news to 102.62 cents US, and markets were solidly up in morning trading in both Toronto and New York before backing off later in the day.

"I think (the U.S.) is the bigger news today, even for Canada," said Bank of Montreal deputy chief economist Doug Porter.

"This is exactly what the Canadian economy needs right now because the consumer is close to being tapped out, housing doesn't have any more room to grow, the government sector is cutting back (and) businesses are understandably cautious. So what we really need now is exports, and exports need the U.S. economy to get going."

Some supporters of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney suggested a conspiracy inside the Labor Department to save U.S. President Barack Obama was afoot, but CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld said if the data were pumped up, something less sinister may be involved.

"The... survey, like Canada's monthly survey, is notorious for producing fleeting outliers, albeit not this large," he said. "Based on grossing up the results of a monthly sample of Americans and comparing it to the prior month's sample, the resulting count is not nearly as reliable as the payrolls report."

In another promising signal, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants' third-quarter survey found 46 per cent of senior executives expect the number of employees at their companies to increase in the next year. That's up slightly from 41 per cent in the second-quarter survey.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's office issued a statement that he was "encouraged" by the latest Canadian gains, noting they bring to 820,000 the number of new jobs added since July 2009, when the economy started to recover from the recession.

The gain in Canada was the third biggest of the year and surprised the experts, who had expected a pickup of just 10,000 jobs.

But the gain wasn't enough to put a dent in the unemployment rate, which edged up one-tenth of a point to 7.4 per cent. That's because while thousands of Canadians found work in September, even more -- 72,600 -- joined the labour force.

Economist Erin Weir of the Progressive Economics Forum said the jump in Canadians entering the workforce suggests many "are still waiting in the wings" for prospects to improve.

Economists also pointed out the details were not as strong as the headline suggests, including the fact two-thirds of the new jobs where in the self-employment category.

Scotiabank's Derek Holt noted aggregate hours worked declined 0.3 per cent despite there being more people working. "It's hours worked that get people paid, so this is a significant dent against the headline. It's not clear to me how this happened if headline and full-time jobs were up so solidly," he said.

Still, the pop in new jobs was unexpected, given that most economic indicators of the past few months have presented a picture of a domestic economy struggling to maintain momentum amid a slowdown around the world, particularly in the U.S., Europe and China.

-- The Canadian Press with staff files

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 6, 2012 B4

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