The local job market is in contrast with the national picture as Canada's unemployment rate rose to 5.9 per cent in January, up from 5.7 per cent in December 2017.
The number of jobs in Canada fell by 88,000 in January to give the labour market its steepest one-month drop in nine years, Statistics Canada said Friday.
The jobless rate in Nanaimo also increased to 4.8 per cent, compared to 4.7 per cent in December.
The job market is coming off its strongest pace of growth since 2002 after creating more than 400,000 jobs in 2017.
On the flip side, Statistics Canada reported the Canadian economy generated 49,000 full-time positions last month.
In a labour force of 39,200, this region saw 37,700 people employed in January - while 1,500 were unemployed.
Employment declines were seen across the field, from low-paying jobs in warehousing, retail and wholesale to lucrative areas of professional, scientific and technical services.
The hike was driven by an increase to the labour force and the number of people claiming unemployment. Employment "showed a long-expected correction in January".
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"We will want to see a few more months of data to judge whether there has been an impact from the minimum-wage hike", said Josh Nye, economist with RBC.
Ontario employment grew by 180,000 previous year and the province's unemployment rate still matches the lowest since 2000.
"One of the positives in today's release was the fact that wage growth picked up", said Craig Alexander, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada.
Mr. Shenfeld noted that the participation rate in the Statscan survey declined in Ontario, and said: "Hard to argue that higher minimum wages would cause Ontarians to decide not to work or look for jobs".
"Today's sour news is at least in part an offset to the unusually strong gains seen late past year, and most likely does not represent the start of new trend".
The biggest question from Friday's disappointing Canadian employment report is how much can be traced to Ontario's sharp minimum wage increase last month.
Others didn't expect the January report, on its own, to have a significant impact on the outcome of the Bank of Canada's next rate announcement.
However, economists also pointed to possible connections between Ontario's minimum wage and Canada's stronger average wage growth of 3.3 per cent in January.