Medicine Hat's unemployment rate hit 7.7 per cent in January

Woman looking through a filing cabinet. GETTY IMAGES  Raphye Alexius

Nationally, the unemployment rate increased slightly to 5.8 per cent, up from 5.6 per cent in December 2018.

Locally, the number of people listed as employed has gone up from about 20,600 last year to an estimated 21,600 this year.

Provincially, Alberta lost jobs for the second straight month, pushing its unemployment rate up to 6.8 per cent. The trend of more people entering the workforce and either working or looking for a job also continued, with the labour force increasing from 22,500 to 23,700.

The jobs data is one of the last major indicators ahead of the March 6 rate decision.

Overall, a consensus of economists had expected the addition of 8,000 jobs for the month and a jobless rate of 5.7 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

"It might catch your eye that you have this massive print in youth employment, but the actual story is that youth employment over the past year is just flat; it was reversing some of the losses we've seen recently", said Royce Mendes, senior economist at CIBC World Markets. At the same time, the number of self-employed declined by 61,000.


"On a year-over-year basis, the number of private sector employees rose by 293,000 (+2.5 per cent), while the number of public sector employees grew by 62,000 (+1.7 per cent)".

The Canadian economy pumped out 67,000 news jobs in January - smashing economists' forecasts calling for 5,000 new positions.

In a note to clients Friday, CIBC Chief Economist Royce Mendes wrote the latest job readings were "a vehicle stuck on one of Canada's clogged highways: speeding up then slowing down just to speed back up again".

According to BC Stats, the province saw job gains in agriculture, up 1,100 jobs, and utilities, up 500 jobs.

"The unemployment rate did rise, but only because of an increase in the participation rate", he said. For last month, the rate was at 7.8%, an increase of 0.8% from December.

Mendes predicted that first quarter economic growth is still likely to be "somewhat weak" due to struggles getting oil to new markets due to regulatory delays in building new pipelines.

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