The National Capital Region continued to lower its unemployment rate in January, adding 4,600 jobs in the first month of the year, according to data released Friday by Statistics Canada.
The unemployment rate dropped to 5.2 per cent – its lowest since March 2017 – as a result of the gains, down from 5.5 per cent in December.
Meanwhile, the labour force in the region increased by 3,000 people over the course of the month.
Job growth continues despite declining activity from the region’s largest employer, the federal government. The feds trimmed the local number of bureaucrats and contractors self-identified as public servants by 4,300 in January, dropping the total to 124,600.
The closely watched tech sector, meanwhile, added 2,400 jobs in the first month of the year.
In total, 731,800 people were employed in Ottawa-Gatineau as of January, 6,600 more than at this time last year.
Numbers were less rosy nationally. The number of jobs in Canada fell by 88,000 in January to give the labour market its steepest one-month drop in nine years.
The overall number was dragged down by a loss of 137,000 part-time positions in what was easily the category's largest one-month collapse since the agency started gathering the data in 1976.
Statistics Canada's latest jobs survey said the net decline helped push the national unemployment rate up to 5.9 per cent in January, from a revised 5.8 per cent the previous month.
But on the other hand, the agency said the economy generated 49,000 full-time positions last month.
“Overall, a mysterious mix of good and bad, with the latter's impact blunted by how strong job gains were in the lead-up to these figures,” CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld wrote in a research note to clients.
“January saw an (88,000) drop in employment, reversing about half of the spectacular gains we registered late last year. But the details also looking wonky, with all of the job losses in part-time work.”
Even with the overall decline in January, Canada has been on a strong run of job creation that has seen the country add 414,100 full-time jobs over a 12-month period. The growth represents an increase of 2.8 per cent.
Over that same period, the number of less desirable part-time positions declined by 125,400 or 3.5 per cent.
The January reading marked the end of a 13-month streak of job gains, however, about half of those positive numbers were within the survey's margin of error.
A closer look at the numbers revealed that the number of paid employee positions also experienced a significant loss last month by shedding 112,000 positions.
By comparison, the number of people who identified as self-employed workers – often seen as a less desirable category that includes unpaid work in a family business – increased last month by 23,900.
Wage growth also received a boost in January, a month that saw Ontario lift its minimum wage. Compared with the year before, average hourly wages for permanent employees expanded 3.3 per cent.
By region, the agency said Ontario and Quebec saw the biggest decreases last month, while New Brunswick and Manitoba also had net losses.
With files from Canadian Press.