A worker walks on a construction site in Hamilton, Ont., on November 14, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

Surge in part-time work offsets full-time losses, helps drops unemployment rate

A rush of new part-time jobs offset a drop in full-time work last month to help Canada post a net gain of 54,100 positions and drop the national unemployment rate down to a four-decade low.

A rush of new part-time jobs offset a drop in full-time work last month to help the economy post a net gain of 54,100 positions and drop the unemployment rate to a four-decade low.

The July jobless rate was 5.8 per cent, down from six per cent the previous month, Statistics Canada said Friday in its latest labour force survey.

However, the details of the report revealed weaker data underneath the bigger-picture improvements.

The country gained 82,000 less desirable, part-time positions last month — and it lost 28,000 full-time jobs.

A closer look at the numbers also showed the public sector made the biggest contribution to the July increase with 49,600 new jobs, while the private sector added 5,200 positions.

The agency said average hourly wage growth, which is closely monitored by the Bank of Canada, continued its gradual slide last month to 3.2 per cent after expanding 3.6 per cent in June and 3.9 per cent in May.

The total number of hours worked in July expanded 1.3 per cent, a slightly slower pace than the June reading of 1.4 per cent.

“In the wacky world of Canada’s monthly employment numbers, July came up with another head scratcher, with some big headlines but some disappointments in the fine print,” CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld wrote Friday in a research note to clients.

Related: Economy adds 31,800 jobs in June, unemployment rate rises to 6.0%

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Shenfeld added that there are “lots of reasons to question just how good the data really are here.”

Still, overall, he said the report contained a “good” set of numbers that will keep markets guessing whether the Bank of Canada will introduce its next interest rate hike in September or October. CIBC predicts the next rate increase will land in October.

Compared with a year earlier, overall employment was up 1.3 per cent following the addition of 245,900 jobs for an increase driven by 210,500 new full-time positions.

By industry, the services sector saw the biggest gains last month with a combined net increase of 90,500 jobs, which was led by 36,500 new positions in education and 30,700 in health care and social assistance.

Overall, the goods-producing sector lost 36,500 jobs in July, with a notable loss of 18,400 positions in manufacturing and a drop of 12,300 in construction.

Across the provinces, Ontario gained 60,600 jobs — all in part-time work — and the unemployment rate dropped 0.5 percentage points to 5.4 per cent for its lowest reading since July 2000.

Employment also rose in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, while Saskatchewan and Manitoba lost jobs last month.

More women between the ages of 25 and 54 years old were working in July as the category saw a gain of 30,300 jobs.

The youth unemployment rate — representing workers aged 15 to 24 years old — fell to 11.1 per cent, down from 11.7 per cent in June. The report said the main cause of the drop was due to the fact fewer young people were looking for work.

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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