Manitoba’s unemployment rate dropped below six per cent last month as the local economy added thousands of new full-time jobs.
In its latest monthly Labour Force Survey report released on Friday, Statistics Canada said the Manitoba economy created 3,900 new full-time jobs in February. Those gains were only partially offset by the loss of 500 part-time positions, leaving a net gain of 3,400 new jobs for the month.
The rise in employment levels — there were 637,700 Manitobans working last month — pushed down the provincial unemployment rate to 5.8 per cent from 6.1 per cent in January. That’s the second lowest jobless rate in the country after British Columbia’s 5.1 per cent.
Canada’s unemployment rate also dropped to 6.6 per cent last month — its lowest level in more than two years — as the national economy created more jobs than expected even with fewer people looking for work.
The labour force report was the latest in a line of stronger-than-expected data. Several economists hailed the numbers as further evidence Canada’s economy is on the mend from the oil price shock of recent years, though at least one questioned the survey’s findings of a massive swing toward full-time employment at the expense of part-time jobs.
The decline of 0.2 percentage points from the previous month brought the unemployment rate down to a number not seen since January 2015.
The agency’s February employment survey indicated the national labour market added 15,300 jobs overall last month.
Economists had projected a gain of just 2,500 jobs and expected the unemployment rate to stay at 6.8 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.
"The underlying economy continues to gain steam," BMO senior economist Benjamin Reitzes said in a note to clients. "One more piece of evidence that the Canadian economy has turned the corner."
Statistics Canada said an estimated 105,000 people found full-time employment last month while part-time positions dropped by nearly 90,000. That was in contrast to the January labour market survey, which showed a surge in part-time work.
"I find this hard to believe in terms of the details," said Derek Holt, head of markets economics at Scotiabank Economics. He noted that the increase in full-time jobs would mark the strongest gain in almost 11 years while the part-time drop would represent the biggest decline since Statistics Canada began its labour force survey in 1976.
While the monthly employment numbers are typically volatile, Statistics Canada said that, in the 12 months to February, Canada saw a net gain of 288,000 jobs with most of the increase coming in the last six months of 2016.
Friday’s jobs report has taken the likelihood of a Bank of Canada interest rate cut completely off the table, Reitzes said.
— Staff/The Canadian Press