Worse job figures to come, Harper says

Fri Feb 6, 2009 2:51pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Last month's job losses in Canada were bad and the government expects unemployment to continue rising steeply, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Friday.

Statistics Canada said earlier in the day that a record 129,000 people lost their jobs in January, pushing the unemployment rate up to 7.2 percent from 6.6 percent.

It was a similar story in the United States, where 598,000 people lost their jobs last month, the most in 34 years, and the unemployment rate climbed to 7.6 percent.

"This is obviously bad news. Even more disturbing than the bad news I think is the bad news out of the United States," Harper told a televised news conference in Miramichi, New Brunswick.

The minority Conservative government unveiled a stimulus-rich budget last month designed to lift the slumping economy. The plan will put the country C$64 billion ($52 billion) into the red over the next two years as Ottawa ends more than a decade of budget surpluses.

"The reason this government has proposed such a massive economic plan, and such a massive deficit-spending stimulus, is our anticipation of significant economic challenges, including significant job losses in the year to come," said Harper.

He shrugged off criticism from opposition parties who say the plan is insufficient and badly thought out.

"We've got to be able to stick to the course. We cannot have in Parliament, quite frankly, instability every week and every month, every time there's a new number and people demanding a different plan," he said.

"We continue to believe this is the action we need ... and we're not going to be blown off track every time there's some bad news."

($1=$1.23 Canadian)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 4, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>