OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's economy unexpectedly shed 21,900 jobs in January but a drop in the number of people seeking work pushed the unemployment rate down to a four-year low of 7.0 percent, Statistics Canada data indicated on Friday.
Market analysts had forecast a gain of 5,000 positions and predicted the jobless rate would edge up to 7.2 percent from the 7.1 percent in December after strong job gains in three of the previous four months.
The economy lost 20,600 full-time and 1,400 part-time jobs in January, with the hard-hit manufacturing sector shedding 21,600 positions. An increase in the number of self-employed was outweighed job losses among private and public sector employees.
January's unemployment rate is the lowest since the 6.8 percent recorded in December 2008 but still well above the 6.1 percent seen before the 2008 economic crisis.
The average hourly wage of permanent employees increased 2.0 percent compared to January 2012, down from the 2.5 percent year-over-growth seen in December.
(Reporting David Ljunggren; Editing Chizu Nomiyama)