OTTAWA -- The global economic slowdown has delivered a blow to Canada's jobs market.
The country shed a surprisingly steep 30,400 jobs last month -- the first major hit in nearly a year for what had been a mostly positive employment record.
The July jobs report published Friday by Statistics Canada pushed the unemployment rate up a tenth of a point to 7.3 per cent.
Economists had been warning employment growth was likely to moderate in the second half of 2012, but still had pencilled in a modest pick-up of about 6,000 new jobs for July.
Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter predicted August's performance may be as bad, noting Statistics Canada had still to register education sector layoffs that normally occur during the summer months.
"This is not good. It basically reinforces the picture that Canadian employers are turning very cautious," Porter said.
"I don't want to read too much into any one month's news, but... we have a clear slowdown in employment. Perhaps the most telling statistic is that the unemployment rate made absolutely no progress in the past year. Effectively, job growth is now trailing a little bit behind population growth."
The report was particularly bad news in Quebec, which saw a loss of 28,700, the biggest in the country, at a time when the Jean Charest government is in a hard-fought campaign for re-election.
The Charest government can take solace in a slightly lower unemployment rate, which slipped to 7.6 per cent as an even bigger number of workers decided to drop out of the labour market, and all the jobs losses were part-time.
The last point was also true of the country as a whole. Nationally, July actually saw a 21,300 gain in full-time employment, which was more than offset by the shedding of 51,600 part-time workers.
Another silver lining was average wages kept rising, to 3.6 per cent higher than a year ago.
Statistics Canada noted job creation for the year remains solidly in the black with a cumulative increase of 124,600 in the first seven months, although the vast majority of those gains came in March and April.
Capital Economics analyst David Madani said the Canadian job losses point to an underlying weakness in the economy, which has been growing at a rate below two per cent since last fall.
-- The Canadian Press