Canada posts job-market decline in March that follows big gains to start 2019

The economy shed 7,200 jobs in March after a pair of strong monthly gains that helped Canada to post its best quarter of job creation since late 2017.

Statistics Canada's labour force survey found the unemployment rate held firm last month at 5.8 per cent.

The March decline follows monthly increases of 66,800 net new jobs in January and 55,900 in February, which was the country's best two-month start to a year since 1981.

Many economists had expected the surprise job-creation surge to lose momentum and the average prediction called for a gain of just 1,000 jobs, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters Eikon.

Statistics Canada says the number of employee positions in the private sector fell by 17,300 last month, while public-employee jobs increased by 4,200 and self-employed occupations rose by 6,000.

Year-over-year average hourly wage growth in March was 2.4 per cent, which was up from a reading of 2.3 per cent in February.

New Brunswick's unemployment rate dropped six-tenths to 7.9 per cent in March.

The province gained 1,700 net full-time positions and 1,300 net part-time jobs.

(With files from James Faulkner)