Ontario sheds 59K part-time jobs in Jan.

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Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had forecast the economy would generate 10,000 jobs in January, and the jobless rate would remain unchanged.

In total, 731,800 people were employed in Ottawa-Gatineau as of January, 6,600 more than this time previous year. It is not unusual to see a city's unemployment rate rise during stronger economic times as more people join the labour because the chances of finding work are better.

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.

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.

"Although employment virtually unchanged during the month, there were fewer people searching for work", said Fields, noting there were 6,000 fewer youth in the labour force last month compared to January 2017.

But on the other hand, the agency said the economy generated 49,000 full-time positions last month.

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While the unemployment rate increased to 5.9 per cent in January, it's still near its record low of 5.8 per cent and the faster wage gains may give policy makers at the Bank of Canada more fodder to worry about inflation.

BMO chief economist Douglas Porter noted it was the first setback for jobs in Canada's job market in 16 months and Ontario was especially hard hit.

"Today's sour news is at least in part an offset to the unusually strong gains seen late past year, and most likely does not represent the start of new trend. But the details also looking wonky, with all of the job losses in part-time work". The number employed dropped by 51,000 but all the declines were in part-time jobs. Employment in the food and accommodation sector, where many workers make minimum wage, was little changed.

The employment drop coincided with an increase in the minimum wage in Canada's largest province - Ontario. Ontario, which increased its minimum wage in January, was the biggest loser in January, shedding 50,900 jobs in the month.

With files from Canadian Press.

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