Canada added 303,000 jobs in March, three times as many economists predicted. But another wave of COVID-19 lockdowns means the gains may be short-lived.
Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 per cent, the lowest since February 2020. It also puts the job market 296,000 jobs shy of the February pre-pandemic level, which BMO senior economist Doug Porter says now seems "very manageable."
"The big message from today's report is that it is now quite clear that prior job losses can be recovered surprisingly quickly when the economy more fully re-opens," he said.
Gains were broad-based with a rise of 175,000 full-time jobs and 128,000 part-time positions.
They were also in the hardest-hit sectors. Employment in retail trade rose by 95,000, while jobs in information, culture and recreation were up 62,000. Food and accommodation were up 21,000.
Job market setbacks ahead
Those gains occurred during a period of loosening of some restrictions and the lifting of stay-at-home orders, which have since been reversed as variants of the virus are causing COVID-19 infections to surge once again.
Indeed Canada economist Brendon Bernard says the pace of job recovery depends on whether the country is in for a typical economic recovery, or outsized gains associated with reopenings.
"Prior to today's report, we found that the Canadian employment rate has a chance to recover this year if gains can maintain a 95,000 monthly pace. The March jobs surge puts us ahead of schedule," he said.
"At the same time, progress will likely slow in April as the third wave and resulting public health restrictions send activity backwards. Major progress on the vaccination front will be necessary to make these gains sustainable."
Ontario was the biggest contributor to job gains by adding 182,000 jobs, but will likely be the biggest drag next month with the province entering a month-long stay-at-home order.
Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.