Canadian Unemployment Rate Surges

Canada lost 129,000 jobs last month, numbers far worse than the 40,000 economists expected, as the unemployment rate jumped to 7.2 percent.

TORONTO (AP) -- Canada lost 129,000 jobs last month, numbers far worse than expected, as the unemployment rate surged more than half a point to 7.2 percent.

It's the worst monthly employment drop in at least three decades. Canada's previous two recessions in the 1980's and 1990's never saw a month this bad. Economists had predicted 40,000 job losses.

Statistics Canada reported Friday that since October Canada has lost 213,000 jobs, wiping out a year's gains.

The credit crisis and the global sell-off of commodities have started to hit Canada hard. The central bank is predicting economic output will contract 4.8 percent in the first quarter.

The drop in employment was most pronounced in manufacturing which suffered the largest monthly decline on record, 101,000.

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty hinted at bad news on Thursday when he described the figures to come as "regrettable."

Canada's Conservative government unveiled a US$32 billion plan to stimulate the economy last month but the economy is largely dependent on what happens in the U.S.

Nearly 80 percent of Canada's trade goes to the U.S.

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