Canada Unemployment Rate Rises With Alberta’s Highest Since 1996

Canada’s unemployment rate posted a surprise increase last month on weakness at goods-producing companies, and unemployment in oil hub Alberta reached the highest since

1996.

The number of jobs fell by 5,700 and the unemployment rate climbed to 7.2 percent from 7.1 percent, Statistics Canada said Friday from Ottawa. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News projected a 6,000 increase and an unchanged jobless rate, according to the median forecasts.

The labor market has lost momentum over the last year as crude oil prices around $30 a barrel trigger layoffs from Alberta to Newfoundland, and manufacturers in Ontario and Quebec ramp up production with existing workers. Unemployment has climbed from 6.6 percent in January 2015, and most economists say the recovery from the commodities slump will take several years to unfold.

Agriculture employment fell by 13,700 in January and manufacturing by 11,000. Alberta’s unemployment rate rose to the highest since February 1996 at 7.4 percent, taking it above the national rate for the first time since December 1988.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week offered special stabilization funding and accelerated federal public works spending in Canada’s leading oil producing province, moves opposition parties said aren’t enough to help laid-off workers.

Benchmark New York crude-oil prices of about $34 a barrel at the end of last month were down from more than $100 in mid-2014. Employment fell by 10,000 in January in Alberta, bringing the 12-month decline to 35,000, or 1.5 percent.

Meg Energy Corp. and Baytex Energy Corp. were among five Canadian oil and natural gas producers that had their debt ratings cut further into junk levels by Moody’s Investors Service this week as the worst crude-market slump in decades erodes cash flows.

The labor report also showed the declines were led by 11,300 part-time positions, compared with a gain of 5,600 full-time jobs. Self-employment dropped by 20,200 in January and workers designated by Statistics Canada as employees rose by 14,500.

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