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Year-over-year, the unemployment rate is up from January 2018 when it sat at 3.8%, and when 37,700 people were reported to be employed in a labour force of 39,200.

The biggest boost came from the number of private-sector employee positions, which climbed by 111,500 in January for the category's biggest month-to-month increase since the agency started collecting the data point in 1976.

The Canadian dollar jumped more than a quarter of a cent in the moments after Statistics Canada announced the jobs numbers. The number of self-employed workers fell by 61,000 last month.

The economy added 99,200 services-producing sector jobs in January, offset by a loss of 32,300 goods-producing sector positions. Part-time job gains outpaced full-time, 36,000 positions versus 30,900, respectively, and youth aged 15 to 24 led employment growth, adding 52,800 jobs. "That blew past expectations for a modest 5,000 gain", said Royce Mendes, an economist with CIBC Economics.

(StatsCan warns with unadjusted data, one can not make month-to-month comparisons since different seasonal factors influence each month).

The labour force counts residents who are either working or looking for work (unemployed).

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The provinces with the highest employment rate for last month were Alberta (66.5%), Saskatchewan (64.9%) and Manitoba (63.8%).

The national unemployment rate, meanwhile, increased 0.2 percentage points to 5.8 per cent. Many analysts expect governor Stephen Poloz to wait until much later in 2019 before making a move.

Wages for permanent employees accelerated to 1.8 per cent in January from 1.5 per cent in December, and overall wage growth ran steady at two per cent.

Friday's Statistics Canada numbers also showed that employees worked 1.2 per cent more hours, year-over-year, compared to the 0.9 per cent reading in December.

By region, Ontario and Quebec had the biggest employment increases last month.