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Canada gains 337,000 jobs, unemployment rate near record low

OTTAWA (AFP) – Canada gained a whopping 337,000 net new jobs in February, the government statistical agency said on Friday, pushing its unemployment rate near the all-time low.

The one-percentage-point drop in the unemployment rate to 5.5 per cent came as public health restrictions started to be lifted following strict measures imposed in January to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

That rate is also lower than pre-pandemic unemployment levels for the first time and close to the record low of 5.4 per cent observed in May 2019, according to Statistics Canada.

“At a time when we desperately needed some good news, the Canadian economy provided just that,” Desjardins analyst Royce Mendes commented in a research note.

He noted that high inflation is still eroding households’ purchasing power, but that rising wages “will cushion some of the blow”.

This is likely to see the Bank of Canada continue with plans to incrementally raise interest rates at least one full percentage point this year, after its first hike since October 2018 to 0.5 per cent last week, he added.

According to Statistics Canada, the February employment gains were widespread across provinces and demographic groups.

They were led by accommodation and food services (+114,000), and information, culture and recreation (+73,000) industries.

Employment in the goods-producing sector – mostly in construction – also rose (+44,000) for a third consecutive month.

Women aged 25 to 54 and Indigenous people saw record-high employment.

Working from home – a popular option for many office workers during the pandemic – and absenteeism declined in the month.