A decrease in the number of people working in the sector that includes federal government workers contributed to the region shedding thousands of jobs during the past year, according to figures Statistics Canada released on Friday.
There were 701,400 people working last month, a drop from 704,500 in March 2013. The unemployment rate also climbed higher, increasing to 6.6 per cent from 6.3 per cent a year ago.
A major contributor to that decrease was the public administration sector, which accounts for the employees in the capital region who work for the federal government. That sector dropped to 140,600 last month from 153,500 in March 2013.
Other sectors to see decreases were finance, insurance, real estate and leasing (which fell to 31,600 from 36,800 a year ago), construction (29,100 from 34,800), retail and wholesale trade (82,700 from 87,600) and accommodation and food services (32,800 from 38,200).
A number of sectors saw a boost. Health care and social assistance increased to 92,400 from 81,300 a year ago while information, culture and recreation jumped to 42,000 from 31,100.
The sector that includes the city’s high-tech workers – which Stats Can officials caution against relying on too heavily, since it’s a blend of a number of other categories – increased to 68,000 from 45,000 a year ago.
The month-over-month numbers painted a more positive picture.
The 6.6-per cent unemployment rate was a slight increase over the 6.5 per cent recorded in February, but the number of people that were working in March was still higher than the 699,000 employed in February.
The jobs numbers increased on both sides of the Ottawa River.
The number of people working in Ottawa increased to 527,400 from 526,500 a month earlier, while Gatineau’s employment number jumped to 174,000 from 172,600 in February.
Nationally, Statistics Canada says the country’s economy churned out nearly 43,000 net new jobs last month, shaving the unemployment rate one tenth of a point to 6.9 per cent.
The employment increase, although mostly part-time, was the best in months and about double what economists had anticipated.
The other surprise in the Statistics Canada report was that the vast majority of the new jobs went to young Canadians, the 15-24 age group that has mostly been left behind during the recovery.
If there was a soft spot in the report, besides the preponderance of part-time work, it was that almost all the new jobs were in the public sector, while new private sector hiring was limited to 3,900.
Still, the March numbers will be seen as a positive to the economy, which had been having difficulty gathering momentum during the unusually cold winter.
Regionally, most of the new jobs went to Canada's most populous provinces, with British Columbia adding 18,300, Quebec 15,100 and Ontario 13,400. There were minor job losses in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.
–With files from The Canadian Press