Canada's job slump deters interest rate hike

Slower job creation last month has kept the Canadian dollar below parity with the U.S. currency and could hold off threatened increases in interest rates.

Economists expected 35,000 jobs to be created in March, but the number was just 17,900. The national unemployment rate remained at 8.2 percent.

Canada is still doing all right — in fact better than many countries, as 176,000 jobs have been added, about half this year, since an upturn began last summer.

The Bank of Canada was poised to increase its key interest rate from a record-low 0.25 percent to control inflationary pressures. But those predictions are tempered as Scotiabank suggests the bank won't move on higher rates until June at one-quarter of a point more. The Bank of Montreal says it won't happen until late July.

The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development predicts Canada will lead industrialized countries in the recovery with a growth rate of 6.2 percent this quarter.

Harper dismisses Cabinet member

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said embattled Helena Guergis is out of his Cabinet as there is a police and ethics investigation of her conduct.

Harper also expelled Guergis, the Status of Women minister, from the Conservative party. She will now be an independent member of the Commons.

The action was "unavoidable," Harper said, noting that his office "became aware of serious allegations." He declined to elaborate.

Guergis was forced to apologize recently after "throwing a tantrum" in the airport in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, when she thought she was going to miss her flight.

There are also suggestions of improper conduct to be investigated involving Guergis' husband, former Conservative Member of Parliament Rahim Jaffer. Charges of drunken driving and possession of cocaine against Jaffer were dropped when he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving last month.

News in brief

• Accused sex slayer Russ Williams, 47, former commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton, attempted suicide. Guards rushed to thwart his attempt at the Quinte Detention Centre in Napanee, Ontario. Authorities say Williams jammed cardboard and foil to block his cell's lock and then tried to choke himself with a toilet tissue tube filled with cardboard and foil. He is awaiting trial in the deaths of two women and the home invasion sexual assaults of two others.

• Canadians flying to the United States can now carry on two pieces of luggage. A one-bag limit was imposed after an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane on Dec 25. Transport Minister John Baird said Canada now has "more robust air security measures in place," including full-body scanners at large airports.

Facts and figures

After reaching parity with the U.S. currency early in the week, Canada's dollar was worth 99.62 cents U.S. Friday. The U.S. dollar returned $1.0039 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The prime lending rate remains at 2.25 percent, and the Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 0.25 percent.

Stock markets are higher with the Toronto exchange index at 12,174 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 1,680 points.

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Regional briefs

• Poor ice conditions and low pelt prices are hampering this year's controversial seal hunt off Canada's east coast. Many hunters in Newfoundland and Labrador aren't taking part as a result. This year's quota is about 380,000 seals, an increase of 50,000 from last year, but it's not expected to be fully taken.

• Alberta endured a last blast of wintry weather with snow squalls and high winds. The storm left 51,000 homes in northeast Calgary without power and led to flight cancellations and delays. Elsewhere, spring weather continues and central Canada had temperatures in the 70s. The lack of snow last month set records nationally.

• The two Winnipeg teachers who were suspended from their jobs for performing a simulated lap dance at a pep rally are no longer being paid. A video of the suggestive dancers was posted on the Internet, leading to the action again Chrystie Fitchner and Adeil Ahmed. Administrators are investigating, a school board official said.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

Canada's job slump deters interest rate hike 04/10/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 10, 2010 8:16pm]

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