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Unemployment rate reaches lowest mark in more than 40 years

Last Updated Jan 5, 2018 at 8:45 am EDT

The Statistics Canada offiices are shown in Ottawa on July 21, 2010. Quebec's anglophone population is declining, rather than booming, Statistics Canada said Thursday as the agency officially corrected a census finding that stoked political fires in Quebec's emotionally charged language debate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – The unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in more than 40 years as Canada closed out a calendar year that saw it produce jobs at a pace not seen since 2002.

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate dropped to 5.7 per cent in December, down from 5.9 per cent the month before, to reach its lowest mark since comparable data became available in 1976.

The unemployment reading fell last month as the economy generated 78,600 net new positions, including 23,700 full-time jobs.

The agency’s labour force survey says employment in 2017 rose 2.3 per cent for its fastest growth rate in 15 years.

The economy added 422,500 jobs last year with the gains driven by 394,200 new full-time positions.

By region, Quebec and Alberta saw the biggest increases last month with each province adding more than 26,000 new jobs.

Quebec’s unemployment rate fell 0.5 percentage points to 4.9 per cent, while Alberta’s dropped 0.4 percentage points to 6.9 per cent.

In a separate report today, Statistics Canada says the country’s merchandise trade deficit widened to $2.5 billion in November, compared with a $1.6-billion deficit the month before, as imports outgrew exports.