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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Creating new jobs is the Canadian government's top economic priority, and a key ministerial committee is now studying ways to tackle unemployment, a senior official said on Wednesday.
"After an extremely difficult year, we're seeing signs that the economy is stabilizing," said the official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity as cabinet's strategic Priorities and Planning Committee began a two-day meeting.
"While there have been a number of positive economic indicators such as recent GDP growth, there's one statistic that is still too high, and that's unemployment. The number of Canadians looking for work is still simply unacceptable and ... the economy, specifically creating jobs, remains the top priority of the federal government."
Canada lost an estimated 28,300 jobs in December and had an unemployment rate of 8.5 percent, substantially below that of the United States but well up on normal levels. January's data will be released at 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT) on Friday.
The official said Human Resources Minister Diane Finley would present "fiscally responsible" proposals to reduce unemployment, and other cabinet ministers would discuss proposals for building a competitive economy and generating jobs through clean technologies.
The committee's work is in preparation for the March 3 return of Parliament and the March 4 annual budget.
The opposition has lambasted the Conservative government's decision to have Parliament's return delayed by 5-1/2 weeks from January 25, and has been holding daily round-tables in the Parliament buildings to drive home the point.
Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson