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Canada: land of new jobs?

Analysis: Canada has regained almost all the jobs it lost since the 2008 downturn.

Canada Rockies
Since July 2009, the Canadian economy added 403,000 jobs. (Mike Powell/Getty Images)

TORONTO, Canada — For Canadians, the economic news this summer has been good.

In June, an impressive 93,000 jobs were created, according to the government agency, Statistics Canada. The job growth amazed economists — they had predicted no more than 20,000 more jobs for the month. The unemployment rate dropped to 7.9 percent, the first time the rate has been below the 8 percent mark since January 2009.

“I’m flabbergasted,” economist Derek Burleton, with the TD bank, told the CBC. “It really does speak to the strength of the domestic economy.”

Since July 2009, 403,000 jobs were added to the Canadian economy.

“These gains offset nearly all the employment losses observed during the labour market downturn which began in the fall of 2008,” Statistics Canada said in its job report for June.

Most of the job gains were in the service sector — from retail to health care — and almost all were in the central Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The surge in jobs come after Canada’s GDP grew a striking 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2010.

The employment news sent Canada’s dollar creeping closer to parity with the U.S. greenback, helped in its upward progression by an American economy that continues to struggle with unemployment hovering at almost 10 percent.

Few, however, are uncorking the champagne. The United States is by far Canada’s biggest trading partner and economic growth is expected to hit a brick wall unless the outlook south of the border brightens. The slim chances of that happening resulted in Mark Carney, the Bank of Canada governor, reducing growth estimates for this year from 3.7 percent to 3.5 percent.

Moreover, the key manufacturing sector — with its better paid and more likely unionized jobs — continued to shed workers. And half of the jobs gained last month were part-time, many of them linked to the G8 and G20 summits held in Ontario June 25-27. Many of them, in other words, are not expected to last.

Perhaps the biggest reason for caution is the spending habits of the government presiding over the job blip. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party, is widely seen as being on a spending spree driven by ideology and politics.

When Harper came to power with a minority government in 2006, he found a $13 billion budget surplus left by the previous government. (All money figures cited are in Canadian dollars.) Well before the devastating recession hit in the fall of 2008, he wiped out that surplus through tax cuts designed to win him a majority government. The plan failed.

The stimulus spending forced by the recession then gave Canada a $56 billion dollar deficit. An investigation by the CBC network found that 60 percent of the stimulus funding — to build everything from roads to hockey rinks — went to electoral districts with conservative members of parliament. (Harper’s minority government holds 46.4 percent of Canada’s 308 districts.)

For the G8 and G20 summits, Harper spent an astounding $1 billion on security — far more than in any previous G8 or G20 summit — and turned downtown Toronto into an armed camp.