The Canadian labour market is healing from the scars of the recession, a shift that bodes well for job security, consumer confidence and domestic demand in the economy.
Employers created 58,300 jobs last month, triple expectations. The hiring sliced the jobless rate to 7.6 per cent, matching a two-year low.
While the bulk of April's gains came in part-time positions, full-time jobs are now back to pre-recession levels. Newfoundland's unemployment rate is at a record low, and more older women are working than ever before, all of which point to growing stability in the labour market.
"This will have a positive effect on incomes, and that's good news for consumption," said Benoit Durocher, senior economist at Desjardins Securities in Montreal.
Last month's gains were fairly split between public and private-sector jobs, Statistics Canada said Friday. The services side of the economy led April's gains, with finance, insurance and real estate as well as business, building and support services expanding the most.
In the past year, the fastest employment growth has been in transportation and warehousing, along with health care and social assistance.
Companies are hiring, many of them foreign firms expanding in Canada. McDonald's Canada, for example, is hiring nearly 5,000 workers. Virtual call-centre provider Alpine Access is hiring 600 customer care professionals across the country. Google Inc. is also boosting its payrolls in Canada.
"We're increasingly seeing many internationally based companies that are attracted to the Canadian market and they are aggressively looking to fill senior talent needs in Canada," said Sussannah Kelly, executive vice-president of search firm DHR International in Toronto.
While the public sector has grown 2.8 per cent in the past year, it's encouraging the private-sector has also expanded, by 1.6 per cent, economists said.
"Businesses are a little less reluctant about hiring and they really are expanding their head count, and that's the kind of momentum we need for this recovery to be self-sustaining," said Emanuella Enenajor, economist at CIBC World Markets.
That should also help offset headwinds the Canadian economy faces from a strong dollar dampening exports, the winding up of stimulus spending and uneven U.S. demand. The jobs data are "consistent" with the economy's strong performance in the first part of the year, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney said Friday.
He reiterated that growth will slow "quite markedly" starting in the current quarter because of temporary factors such as the Japanese earthquake's effect on North American auto plants, and longer-term challenges such as sub-par productivity gains.
The job market is coping with pressures of its own. Several measures of the health of the labour market - including hours worked, private-sector positions and employment among core-aged workers - haven't yet returned to pre-recession levels.
The overall jobless rate of 7.6 per cent is still far from the 6.1-per-cent rate of October, 2008. At this pace, it will take another three-and-a-half years to whittle the rate to what it was before the recession hit, estimates Stephen Gordon, economics professor at Laval University.
Job creation might seem strong this month and next, but that will partly be due to temporary hiring for the census. And public-sector hiring is set to slow as governments trim budgets.
While nearly 60,000 new jobs last month looks like a big jump, the three-month average amounts to a more modest 24,000.
Job growth may be moderate, but demographic changes within the work force are not. Employment levels among women aged 55 and over have soared to a record high. In the past year, employment among these women has soared by 102,000 or 7.9 per cent - the fastest rate of all demographic groups.
It's a different story for young Canadians, whose jobless rate remains elevated, at 14.3 per cent.
With files from Jeremy Torobin in Ottawa.