OTTAWA - The Canadian economy lost a surprising 45,900 jobs in December and the unemployment rate rose unexpectedly as more people searched for work, Statistics Canada said Friday.
Canada's national unemployment rate rose to 7.2 per cent for the final month of the year, compared with 6.9 per cent in November.
The December drop was led by a decline in full-time jobs, which fell by roughly 60,000. That loss was offset in part by a gain of 14,200 part-time jobs.
Economists had expected the economy to add 14,600 jobs and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 6.9 per cent, according to estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.
The loonie fell half a cent to 91.65 cents US, its lowest level since September 2009, following the jobs report.
TD Bank senior economist Sonya Gulati said the labour market ended 2013 on a very soft note, in three ways.
"Not only was the headline contraction in December sizable, but the losses were broad-based across industries and exclusively seen in full-time positions," Gulati wrote in a report.
The loss for the month brought the total job gains for 2013 to 102,000, the slowest annual pace since 2009.
However Gulati suggested the disappointing December report may be a one-off and not the new normal, with indicators to date suggesting the economy grew by two to 2.5 per cent in the fourth quarter.
"The underlying momentum will likely encourage employers to once again add to their payrolls, albeit at a modest rate of roughly 10-15,000 positions per month," she said.
For the month, Ontario and Alberta led the provinces lower with losses of 39,000 and 12,000 respectively. Meanwhile, British Columbia added 13,000 jobs and Newfoundland and Labrador gained 1,900.
By industry, there were 19,000 fewer jobs in educational services, while the other services category, which includes personal care services as well as civic and social organizations, lost 15,000. The agriculture sector lost 9,800 and natural resources lost 8,000.
Health care and social assistance was the only industry to see gains in December as the sector added 22,000 jobs.
The disappointing December job report capped a week of generally soft Canadian economic data that has seen the loonie drop to its lowest level since September 2009.
Statistics Canada reported earlier this week that Canada's trade deficit edged higher in November as imports inched higher and exports stalled.
The country's overall trade deficit with the world grew to $940 million in November as imports rose to $40.7 billion, while exports were unchanged at $39.8 billion. The deficit came as the results for October were also revised to show a deficit of $908 million compared with an initial report of a surplus of $75 million for the month.