The overall Canadian labour market was stuck in neutral last month as a solid employment gain in the services sector was wiped out by job losses in the goods-producing industry, especially manufacturing.

Statistics Canada said Friday that the national unemployment rate for April remained unchanged at 7.1 per cent.

Overall, the country lost 2,100 jobs nationally — a number that Statistics Canada considers to be close to zero.

But Alberta's woes persisted as it lost 20,800 positions in April — the most of any province.

The province has been hit hard by low oil prices and it's now contending with a monstrous wildfire that has forced the shutdown of economically critical oilsands facilities and the evacuation of Fort McMurray.

Economists have been looking to Canada's manufacturing industry to pick up the slack from Canada's hobbled resources sector, which has struggled amid low commodity prices.

But in April, goods-producing work across Canada fell by 37,100 positions, led by a drop of 16,500 manufacturing jobs.

Between December and April, the country lost 51,700 manufacturing jobs — with 23,200 of them in Alberta, including 3,000 last month. Manufacturing work in the Prairie province was down 17.7 per cent compared to the year before.

With the wildfire continuing to rage in Alberta, it's unclear how significant the economic fallout will be in the province.

Last month, the Canadian economy added 35,000 services jobs, which was largely due to surges of 26,800 positions in wholesale and retail trade and 21,900 in accommodation and food services.

Services also saw losses of 16,000 positions in the category of business, building and other support services and a drop of 11,900 jobs in other services.

The number of employee positions in Canada increased in April by 22,800, while self-employed jobs fell by 24,900.

Overall Canadian employment last month was up 0.8 per cent compared to 12 months earlier, the report said.

That flat national job number matched the projection of a consensus of economists, who had also predicted the jobless rate to creep up to 7.2 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

The Canadian Press

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