Canada's economy added 67,000 jobs in September, blowing past expectations for meagre employment growth. But the gains were mostly due to a surge in part-time work and self-employment, and the jobless rate remained stuck at 7 per cent, according to Statistics Canada's monthly labour force survey released on Friday.
Last month was the country's biggest employment gain in four years and marked the second consecutive month of solid job growth. But the survey can be unreliable given that it has a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 30,000. Nevertheless, the increase comes after a year of spotty job creation and reflects an economy still grappling with the downturn in the energy sector.
Part-time employment increased by 44,000 positions and full-time work rose by 23,000 spots. Self-employment – which is made up of both part-time and full-time employment – soared by 50,000 new jobs.
"The magnitude of the … gain is dented by a heavy reliance upon self-employed and part-time categories," Bank of Nova Scotia's vice-president Derek Holt said in a note. "That's, of course, to the extent to which you treat this survey as a reliable indicator."
Mr. Holt said many self-employment positions are important to the economy, but he said: "Sudden shifts in this category always raise suspicions about a self-reporting bias."
Over the year, part-time job creation has outpaced full-time employment with increases mostly due to those over the age of 55. Meanwhile, there has been little employment growth among core age workers, or those between the age of 25 and 54. That group shed full-time jobs for the fourth consecutive month, although it saw a rise in part-time employment.
"The underlying structure of the population and labour market is shifting," said Andrew Fields, labour analyst with Statscan. The population of core age workers is up 0.3 per cent, while the older cohort's population has increased by 3 per cent.
Over all, the private sector created 17,000 positions with new positions in business, finance and technical services. The transportation, manufacturing and construction industries also added spots. Job losses in health care and social assistance underpinned a dip in public sector employment.
"A positive report for the Canadian economy, and one that continues to show modest national growth and an ongoing shake-up in regional labour market strength," Bank of Montreal senior economist Robert Kavcic said in a note.
Quebec created positions for the second consecutive month and Ontario added new jobs. British Columbia, now the country's strongest economy, recorded a dip in employment.
Among the resource-dependent provinces, the data continued to show signs of weakness.
Although Alberta added 13,000 positions in September, the province's labour force has shrunk over the year and the jobless rate is up one notch to 8.5 per cent. The province, which was once Canada's economic star, has shouldered the brunt of the oil slump. Meanwhile, in other oil-producing provinces, employment in Newfoundland and Labrador declined and Saskatchewan was up marginally.
The Bank of Canada's quarterly business outlook survey, released on Friday, showed signs of improvement. The survey said more companies planned to boost spending and hiring over the next year and that resource companies "sense" that the commodities slump has bottomed.
Analysts polled by Bloomberg expected the country to create 7,500 jobs and the unemployment rate to stay at 7 per cent.
In the United States, 156,000 jobs were created last month, boosting expectations for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates later this year.