Bank of Canada's Carney: slack job market warrants low rates

Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:54am EST
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* Carney says labor market slack consistent with low rates for some time

* Jobless rate has come down but still too high at 7 pct

* Repeats rate hikes less imminent due to weak growth, inflation

OTTAWA, Feb 12 (Reuters) - A weak jobs market is a factor behind Canada's decision to keep interest rates low, the head of the Bank of Canada said on Tuesday, describing the country's 7 percent jobless rate as undesirably high.

Canada has recovered all jobs lost during the 2008-09 recession but its jobless rate is over a percentage point higher than before the downturn as employers worry about spillover from troubles in the U.S. and European economies. A fifth of those who can't find work are long-term unemployed.

"From an inflation perspective, from a monetary policy perspective, we do see slack ... in the labor market which is consistent with the maintenance of very accommodative monetary policy for some time," Carney told legislators.

The Bank of Canada has held its overnight rate target at 1.0 percent since September 2010. It said last month that an eventual rate hike was "less imminent" due to weaker-than-expected growth and inflation.

Unlike the U.S. Federal Reserve, which focuses on both jobs and inflation, the Bank of Canada has a single target when setting monetary policy: holding inflation around the center of a 1-3 percent range.

But Carney's comments, to a Canadian Parliamentary committee, suggest the bank will also eye employment as it decides when to resume raising rates.   Continued...