By Kim Mackrael

OTTAWA -- Canada unexpectedly added jobs in December, all of which were full-time, while the unemployment rate ticked up as more people looked for work.

Canada gained a net 53,700 jobs in December, and the national unemployment rate increased to 6.9%, Statistics Canada said Friday. Expectations were for a loss of 2,500 jobs and for the jobless rate to edge up to 6.9%, according to economists at Royal Bank of Canada.

The report comes after the Canadian economy added close to 11,000 jobs in November, concentrated in the part-time and services sector. The jobless rate also fell to 6.8% from 7% in that month as the country's labor force posted its biggest drop in more than two years.

The December data means Canada's job market ended the year on a positive note. During the 12 months ending Dec. 31, the Canadian economy added 214,100 jobs for a gain of 1.2%, marking the fastest December-to-December growth rate since 2012. Nearly all of the 2016 increase occurred during the last five months of the year, Statistics Canada said. Most of the overall gains for the year were in part-time positions.

"The job market is continuing to surprise us, to do way better than we are expecting," Desjardins Securities economist Mathieu D'Anjou said. While it is not clear the economy can sustain the kind of job growth it has seen recently, he said, "It's still good news to see that month after month, the data is quite good."

The Bank of Canada said during its most recent rate decision in December that Canada has seen ongoing gains in employment, but noted a "significant amount" of economic slack remains. The central bank expects growth of just 1.1% this year and 2.0% in 2017 and 2018.

In December, Canada added 81,300 full-time positions and lost 27,600 part-time jobs. The number of people employed in jobs paying regular weekly or biweekly wages rose by 72,100, while the ranks of the self-employed, who tend to be independent contractors or freelancers, declined by 18,400.

Write to Kim Mackrael at kim.mackrael@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 06, 2017 09:19 ET (14:19 GMT)

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