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OTTAWA, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Canada's job market continued to gently cool off in December, shedding 4,300 positions after a loss of 10,700 jobs in November, while the hot housing market showed signs of decline.
Statistics Canada said on Friday that the unemployment rate had remained unchanged at 6.6 percent.
Market analysts had expected an increase of 15,000 jobs. The two months of fairly small declines followed big gains in September and October.
Full-time employment in December grew by 53,500 jobs, while part-time work dropped by 57,700.
"Full-time employment was quite strong, wages bounced back, and the unemployment rate held steady," said Doug Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets.
"So, while the headline number is a disappointment, you don't have to dig too far beneath the surface to see the overall results weren't uniformly bad," he told Reuters.
The 12-month gain came to 185,700 positions, an increase of 1.0 percent, while the six-month moving average for employment growth was 22,100 jobs, up from 21,300 in November.
The Bank of Canada, which has kept interest rates at near-record lows for more than four years to stimulate the economy, said last month the labor market still showed significant slack.
"It will argue for the Bank just to remain on the sidelines, continuing to monitor data," said Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist at the Royal Bank of Canada.
The labor participation rate, which is of particular interest to the central bank, slipped to 65.9 percent, the lowest since October 2001.
The Canadian dollar retreated to its weakest level in more than 5-1/2 years following Friday's data, which included a government report from the United States showing the economy there added 252,000 jobs in December.
The Canadian dollar hit $1.1887 against the greenback, or 84.13 U.S. cents, sharply weaker than just before the release.
Canadian policy makers are also concerned about the hot property market, which is starting to cool. Housing starts fell more than expected in December and November figures were revised lower.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp said the seasonally adjusted annualized rate of housing starts fell to 180,560 units in December from 193,199 in November. Analysts had forecast 193,500 starts.
Separately, Statscan said the value of Canadian building permits plummeted by 13.8 percent in November to C$6.58 billion ($5.58 billion) on widespread weakness, the second large drop in four months.
Canada jobs, unemployment link.reuters.com/fax39t
Full-time vs. part-time link.reuters.com/pev29v
Temporary vs. permanent link.reuters.com/xuf98v
Building permits link.reuters.com/det73t
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^> (Additional reporting by Allison Martell, Susan Taylor and Mike De Souza in Toronto; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)