TORONTO – Canada's economy pumped out a whopping 95,000 new jobs in May in the biggest month of employment growth in more than a decade, Statistics Canada said Friday.
The massive gain was the first major improvement of 2013 and many times greater than economists had expected, dropping the unemployment rate one-tenth of a point to 7.1 percent.
The impact on the unemployment rate would have been greater but for an almost as large increase in the number of Canadians looking for work.
All the new jobs came in the private sector and in the employee class, and 76,700 of them were full-time.
The Canadian dollar gained ground after the report, trading at 97.89 U.S. cents, up about four-tenths of a cent from Thursday's close and up more than a cent over two days.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty issued a statement calling the employment gains "the types of jobs that will help support a sustained recovery."
He pointed out that Canada has now produced more than one million jobs since the 2008-09 recovery.
Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter noted the increase was the second largest in 35 years — only a pick-up of 95,100 in August 2002 was bigger in nominal terms.
"There's no question this report is absolutely spectacular ...," he said.
"But I would add a couple of notes of caution. I would sincerely doubt we are going to see anything close to this repeated in the months ahead, and the other thing, it did follow a real period of weakness," Porter said.
Canada's labor market had been seen as struggling in 2013, with the first four months producing a net loss of 13,000 jobs, attributed to the poor economic performance during the second half of last year.
But with May's numbers added in, the year now appears more in line with an economy that is growing at a moderate if not spectacular pace. Over the past 12 months, Canada has produced job gains of about 250,000 and seen hours worked rise by 1.1 percent.
Even students and other young people had an easier time finding employment in May, with about 54,000 of the new workers in the 15-to-24 age group joining the labor force. That pushed the youth unemployment rate to 13.6 percent, almost a full point lower than the previous month.
By industry, there was a big surge in construction jobs in May, rising by about 43,000, and retail and wholesale trade added about 27,000 workers. Employment in other services, such as repair and maintenance, increased by 22,000, and there was a 21,000 gain in people working in business, building and other support services.
However, the battered manufacturing sector did not join in the bounty. The agency said there were 14,200 fewer factory workers in May than there had been in April, bringing the total losses in the sector in the past year to almost 100,000.