By Kelsey Johnson
OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian economy gained a larger-than-expected 81,100 net jobs in August, largely driven by increases in part-time work, Statistics Canada data showed on Friday in its last major release of economic statistics before a national election campaign begins.
The national unemployment rate held steady, as expected, at 5.7% in August, while wages for permanent employees increased 3.8% year-over-year.
Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast a gain of 15,000 jobs. The Canadian dollar strengthened to a one-month high at 1.3179 to the dollar,, or 75.88 cents U.S., after the jobs gain.
"Clearly the jobs picture is relatively robust," said Doug Porter, BMO's chief economist, when reached by phone.
Of the total number of new jobs, 57,200, or more than two-thirds, were part-time.
Statistics Canada said 20,500 more people were working in educational services in August, largely in Quebec. Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing were also up, rising by 22,400 in August, while the professional, scientific and technical services sector saw an increase of 16,800 jobs.
The number of private sector employees increased by 94,300 in August while the number of self-employed workers fell by 11,200.
"A spectacular headline and pretty firm underline details," said Derek Holt, Scotiabank's vice president of capital markets economics, adding "at first pass it's hard to poke holes in it."
The latest jobs numbers will likely be welcomed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals, who find themselves in a tight race for reelection against Andrew Scheer's Conservatives.
"Great news as Canada blows past expectations, creating more than 81,000 new jobs last month!" Finance Minister Bill Morneau tweeted Friday.
"With over 1 million new jobs created since 2015, we have a choice to make this election: build on this progress or go back to the Harper years," he added, referring to former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whom Trudeau defeated in 2015.
Scheer and the Conservatives have vowed to focus the pending election campaign on economic concerns, including the cost of living and affordability. Canadians head to the polls on Oct 21.
On Thursday, Bank of Canada Deputy Governor Lawrence Schembri said the country is showing a "welcome degree of resilience," against negative shocks, in part, because of a strong labor market.
Canada's central bank, which held interest rates again on Thursday, has not moved since last October, even as some of its counterparts, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, have eased.
"The Bank (of Canada) has sent a pretty clear signal that they’re in no rush to cut, this report will reinforce that," said Porter.
(Additional reporting by Fergal Smith, Nichola Saminather and Moira Warburton in Toronto, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Steve Orlofsky)