Sask. unemployment second-lowest in country: Stats Canada

A worker in Ontario

A worker in Ontario

Statistics Canada says the local economy was stagnant in January with little change in jobs but an increase in the jobless rate.

"The Canadian economy experienced a very large setback in January ... but it also needs to be kept in perspective - we had outstandingly strong job growth over the course of past year", Craig Alexander, chief economist for the Conference Board of Canada, said in an interview. Most of the other provinces also shouldered part-time losses, with Quebec shedding 31,000 positions.

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. The jobs report can also be volatile month-to-month.

In a labour force of 39,200, this region saw 37,700 people employed in January - while 1,500 were unemployed.

The largest employment declines were in Ontario and Quebec.

The province of Saskatchewan boasts the second best unemployment rate in the country according to Stats Canada.

Ontario, which increased its minimum wage in January, was the biggest loser in January, shedding 50,900 jobs in the month.

It triggered a backlash among much of the business community, which is dealing with rising interest rates, stricter mortgage rules and uncertain trade relations with the United States and Mexico.

The hike was driven by an increase to the labour force and the number of people claiming unemployment.

"We will want to see a few more months of data to judge whether there has been an impact from the minimum-wage hike", said Josh Nye, economist with RBC.

"One of the positives in today's release was the fact that wage growth picked up", said Craig Alexander, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada. The unemployment rate rose to 6.5 per cent in January, up from 6.2 per cent the month before.

NutraBlend Foods announced just over a week ago that it would close its facility at 150 Adams Blvd.by the end of February, resulting in the loss of about 100 jobs. Compared with the year before, average hourly wages for permanent employees expanded 3.3 per cent.

January's job losses lowered expectations that the Bank of Canada would hike interest rates at its next rate announcement scheduled for March.

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