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A job seeker at the Youth Employment Services office in Toronto.

Kevin Van Paassen/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Employment levels in Canada were little changed last month and the unemployment rate held at 7.2 per cent. But behind the static-sounding headline lies plenty of churn. Here are five trends in Canada's labour market:

Private sector caution

Virtually all of Canada's job gains over the past year have been in the public sector and among the self-employed, while employment at private companies has been flat. Last month, the private sector shed 20,000 positions, reflecting shaky business confidence. The private-sector job decline over the past two months is the steepest drop since early 2009 when the economy was in recession, notes Stefane Marion, chief economist at National Bank Financial.

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Young people are getting nowhere

The youth unemployment rate hit a six-month high of 14.5 per cent, up from 14.2 per cent in March, as 18,800 jobs were lost among this age group. While the employment picture isn't nearly as dire as in other countries such Greece or Spain, it is showing little signs of improvement. The jobless rate for people between the ages of 15 and 24 is now higher than it was a year ago.

Manufacturing - a pickup, or one-month blip?

Factories have been shedding jobs since June of last year, according to Statistics Canada. That slide reversed itself last month as manufacturers added 20,600 positions. One month does not make a trend, but stronger demand from the United States is supporting the sector. Manufacturing is the third-largest sector by employment in Canada.

Alberta & Saskatchewan still on top

Nowhere have employment gains been greater in the past year than in Saskatchewan. By city, Regina and Saskatoon have the lowest jobless rates in the country, at 3.5 per cent and 3.7 per cent, respectively. Alberta is faring well, too. The province added 14,800 positions last year, lowering its unemployment rate to 4.4 per cent.

Job gains may be tepid, but wages are firming

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Wage gains have been fairly muted in recent months. That's shifted: Average hourly wage gains accelerated to 2.9 per cent in April from a year earlier, a jump from 2.1 per cent in March. The one-month gain is the largest since November, 2011, notes Charles St-Arnaud, economist at Nomura Securities. That's well above the rate of inflation, which is 1 per cent.

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About the Author

Tavia Grant has worked at The Globe and Mail since early 2005, covering topics from employment and currency markets to trade, microfinance and Latin American economies. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in Toronto and Zurich, writing on mining, stocks, currencies and secret Swiss bank accounts. More

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