[OTTAWA] Canada's unemployment rate fell 0.1 per cent in January to 6.8 per cent, the government said Friday.
Some 48,000 new jobs were added, in contrast with forecasts that had predicted a modest loss of 10,000 jobs and a stable unemployment rate.
Year-over-year employment grew by 276,000 jobs (+1.5 per cent), with the bulk of hires occurring since August.
Job growth was strongest in the service sector, but declined in the information, culture and recreation sectors.
Employment grew among men and women age 25-54 and varied little in other population segments, according to Statistics Canada.
At the regional level, the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland saw the greatest job growth.
The private sector saw the bulk of job growth (+32,400) with modest increases in the public and self-employed sectors.
Since August, the Canadian economy has created an average of 40,000 jobs per month, which is "well above the pace of employment growth that we would expect with GDP appearing to be tracking between 1.5-2 per cent at present," said Andrew Grantham, an economist with CIBC Bank.
Under these conditions, he believes, Canada's central bank will "find it harder convincing markets that a (key interest rate) cut is still on the table".
The rate is unchanged at 0.50 per cent since the mid-2015.