Nearly 22,000 jobs lost in January: StatsCan

But unemployment rate declines to 7 per cent as fewer people look for work

(Reuters) — Canada's economy unexpectedly shed 21,900 jobs in January but a drop in the number of people seeking work pushed the unemployment rate down to a four-year low of seven per cent, Statistics Canada data indicated on Friday.

Market analysts had forecast a gain of 5,000 positions and predicted the jobless rate would edge up to 7.2 per cent from the 7.1 per cent in December after strong job gains in three of the previous four months.

The economy lost 20,600 full-time and 1,400 part-time jobs in January, with the hard-hit manufacturing sector shedding 21,600 positions. An increase in the number of self-employed was outweighed by job losses among private and public sector employees.

January's unemployment rate is the lowest since the 6.8 per cent recorded in December 2008 but still well above the 6.1 per cent seen before the 2008 economic crisis.

The average hourly wage of permanent employees increased by two per cent compared to January 2012, down from the 2.5 per cent year-over-growth seen in December.

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