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OTTAWA — The country’s labour force received a boost of 58,900 net jobs last month thanks to a surge in private-sector work that more than offset April’s losses, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Even with the increase, the national unemployment rate in May remained locked at 6.8 per cent for the fourth straight month, after more people entered the workforce, the statistical agency’s latest job-market report found.

The monthly survey provided a fresh reading on Canada’s second-quarter economic data, a batch of indicators under close scrutiny after the economy contracted in the first three months of the year.

Last week, Statistics Canada released data showing the economy shrank at an annualized rate of 0.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2015, a dismal result that led to a wave of downgraded economic projections on how the rest of the year will play out.

The Canadian job numbers for May surpassed economists’ expectations and more than offset April’s loss of 19,700 positions. The consensus projection of economists had predicted a gain of 10,000 jobs in May, according to Thomson Reuters.

The United States also added a robust 280,000 jobs in May, according to the U.S. Labour department.

Statistics Canada reported the country added 56,800 private-sector positions last month and lost 19,100 public-sector jobs. It also found the number of full-time jobs climbed by 30,900 while part-time positions rose by 27,900. 

The manufacturing sector gained 21,500 positions in May, rising for the second-consecutive month. The category of health care and social assistance also saw a considerable increase in work, adding 20,700 positions.

The natural-resources industry, hit hard by the decline in energy prices, shed 2,400 jobs, the report said.

By region, the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia added jobs, while Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba and New Brunswick lost positions. The other provinces only saw small changes.

Ontario received the biggest employment boost by adding 43,900 jobs last month, a flood of new positions that shaved 0.3 percentage points off the provincial jobless rate, which slid to 6.5 per cent.

The youth unemployment rate fell to 13.2 per cent, down from 13.6 per cent in April. The economy added 11,900 net positions last month for young workers, aged 15 to 24, compared to the month before.

Compared to May 2014, employment was up countrywide by 192,300 net jobs, including a gain of 233,000 full-time positions. Statistics Canada noted there have been employment gains of about 20,500 positions per month since the start of 2015.

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Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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