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OTTAWA, April 13 (Reuters) - The Canadian job vacancy rate edged higher in the fourth quarter compared to the year before as the number of open positions rose in provinces that have had the strongest labor markets, data from Statistics Canada showed on Thursday.
The national vacancy rate rose to 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, up from 2.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015. The vacancy rate measures the share of all available jobs that are unfilled.
The number of jobs that were open jumped 6.3 percent to 374,895, led by a rise in vacancies in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, three provinces that have had the largest employment growth in the country, the statistics agency said.
"Clearly in those markets demand for labor has been quite strong and, apparently, not entirely satisfied either," said Robert Hogue, senior economist at Royal Bank of Canada.
"It's a sign of a fairly robust labor market."
Vacancies rose 21 percent in British Columbia, while its vacancy rate rose to 3.3 percent. The province has had the highest vacancy rate among the provinces since the third quarter of 2015.
Higher vacancy rates often suggest economic growth. British Columbia had the lowest unemployment rate in the country in March at 5.4 percent, well below the national rate of 6.7 percent.
Quebec's vacancy rate rose to 1.8 percent, while Ontario's increased to 2.6 percent, with the major city of Toronto accounting for much of the increase in unfilled positions.
Strong job growth in Canada in recent months has suggested the economy is turning a corner after being hit by a drop in oil prices in 2015.
The fourth-quarter vacancy figures confirmed the labor market had good momentum heading into 2017, Hogue said.
"We continue to expect that overall employment will continue to grow moderately," he said. (Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)