April 8, 2009 / 9:36 PM / in 9 years

March jobs data "not encouraging"

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s March job losses will not be encouraging, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Wednesday in his now habitual commentary on the closely watched employment report on the eve of its release to the public.

“I expect the numbers will continue to be worse over the next several months,” Flaherty told reporters in Oshawa, Ontario, according to a transcript of his remarks.

“I expect tomorrow’s numbers to be not encouraging. When we lose jobs, it takes a long time to turn that around.”

Statistics Canada will release the March employment data at 7 a.m. EDT on Thursday.

The median forecast of analysts surveyed by Reuters is for the economy to shed 55,000 jobs in March and for the unemployment rate to rise to 8 percent from 7.7 percent in February.

Analysts were initially shocked in February when Flaherty first hinted at the market-sensitive jobs data for January one day before Statscan published its report. He said the job numbers would be “regrettable.”

A month later, he made similar remarks ahead of the February data. The comments set up market expectations for a bleak report.

Economists have come to expect the pattern to continue.

“We eagerly await the finance minister’s projections on jobs in the days ahead for early guidance,” Doug Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, quipped in a research note on Monday.

Derek Holt of Scotia Capital warned his clients of the “potential for market effects stemming from dubiously advised leaked commentary the afternoon before, if the recent pattern is any guide.”

Flaherty’s office has said the minister had simply stated the obvious about expected job losses during a recession and did not have any inside knowledge of the data at the time he commented.

It would not be unheard of for the finance minister and the prime minister to have early access to the Statscan data on a confidential basis a few hours ahead of their publication.

Reporting by Louise Egan; editing by Rob Wilson

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