Canada adds ‘puzzling’ 30,000 jobs in February

Canada added 30,000 jobs in February despite concerns over the spreading coronavirus, while its unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage points to 5.6 percent, according to government data released Friday, reports BSS/AFP. Statistics Canada said there were more people working in wholesale and retail trade, in manufacturing (for a second consecutive month), as well as in information, culture and recreation.

At the same time, employment declined in professional, scientific and technical services and in accommodation and food services. Economists noted a “puzzling gap” between hiring and a slowing export-driven economy, adding that this latest data would not likely factor into market decisions as it predates what are likely to be the biggest impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Canada ended the last of the pre-virus jobs reports with a flourish, as a strong month for employment and a healthy wage gain showed that everything was fine in the labor market,” said CIBC analyst Avery Shenfeld. “We won’t really see the major impacts of the coronavirus for a couple of months, so markets will look past all of these numbers,” he added.

Oxford Economics echoed this view, calling the February jobs gains “welcome news, but old news.” “We expect weaker employment growth moving forward, as the COVID-19 outbreak weighs on confidence and spending plans,” it added.

On Wednesday the Bank of Canada cut its key lending rate for the first time since 2015, to 1.25 percent, in response to the growing economic risk posed by the epidemic.

According to Statistics Canada, the February job gains were mostly in Quebec, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Manitoba provinces. More youth found jobs (+22,000), but the youth unemployment rate held steady at 10.3 percent. There was no net change in job figures for other demographics or regions.