Harper says economy on mend; jobs needed

Wed Jan 6, 2010 2:38am EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Tuesday he was much more optimistic economically about 2010 but he would not be satisfied until the jobless rate starts to come down.

Economic indicators were almost universally "moving a bit in the right direction" though the unemployment rate has barely budged, the Conservative leader said in a CBC television interview.

"When my fellow economists say, 'Well the economy's out of recession now,' I tend to qualify that. We can argue that technically," he said.

"But we all know that while the unemployment situation has stabilized, we haven't yet recouped some of the job losses that we saw last year. Until we start to see that, I won't be satisfied we're on the road to recovery."

He noted that Canada's jobless rate had plateaued earlier and at a lower rate than in the United States but the current level around 8.5 percent was too high and needed to be closer the pre-recession range of 5.5 to 6.5 percent.

"The main thing is the direction. We'd like to see it start to fall," he said.

Statistics Canada will release its December jobless report at 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT) on Friday and analysts predict the unemployment rate will stay at 8.5 percent while 20,000 jobs will be added.

The problem will be just the opposite later, he predicted.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, December 9, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>