Canadian PM says anemic job market poses significant challenges

Mon Sep 15, 2014 1:52pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Canada's anemic job market poses "significant challenges," Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged on Monday, while promising new measures this year to help boost the economy.

Harper's right-leaning low-tax Conservatives, who are trailing in the polls ahead of an election scheduled for October 2015, portray themselves as the only party that can be trusted to maintain economic stability in the wake of the 2008 recession.

But that claim could be undermined by a job market that has sputtered over the last 18 months.

The 12-month gain to August was just 81,300 jobs, or 0.5 percent, while the labor participation rate slipped to 66.0 percent, the lowest since November 2001. Canada's unemployment rate was 7 percent in August.

"There are still significant challenges in our labor market," Harper told a meeting of Conservatives on the day the House of Commons resumed business after a summer break.

He did not give more details. Last week Ottawa said small business would get C$550 million ($500 million) in rebates on their employment insurance premiums over the next two years in order to boost hiring.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver is due to present an economic update later this year. Governments in the past have used the occasion to announce measures such as tax cuts.

"I look forward to the economic and fiscal update ... when we will be taking the first steps in the next part of our Conservative plan for Canadians," said Harper.   Continued...