TORONTO (AP) – Canada showed signs that the recession may be easing as there were fewer-than-expected job losses in June, even though the country’s unemployment rate climbed to an 11-year high of 8.6 percent.

Statistics Canada announced Friday that Canada lost 7,400 jobs in June, as the unemployment rate rose to 8.6 percent, the highest since February 1998 and up from 8.4 percent in May.

The agency said that while 47,500 full-time jobs disappeared in June, roughly 40,100 part-time positions were added.

The 7,400 job loss figure was surprisingly low given the previous month’s 42,000 retreat and general weakness in the economy.

Economists had expected a 35,000 drop in employment in June and for the jobless rate to hit 8.7 percent.

“While employment remains well below its October 2008 peak, there was a notable shift in the pace of the downward trend in the last three months,” the agency said in a statement.

The government agency reported that the total net job losses were 13,000 for the last three months, much less than the 273,000 decline in the first three months of this year.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomed the Statistics Canada report at a news conference in Italy, contrasting Canada’s situation with the United States, which lost almost 500,000 jobs in the same month.

“We can’t promise Canadians we will not to be effected by the recession. Clearly we are being effected. What we have promised is that we will continue to make sure our performance as a major developed economy is superior to the others,” Harper said.

Harper also denied reports that the country is facing a structural deficit and would need to cut government programs or raise taxes.

“We are not in a structural deficit position. There is no need in Canada for us to start slashing programs, nor is there any need for us to raise taxes as has been suggested by… some members of the opposition parties,” he said.

While Canada’s jobs picture shows signs of the country lifting out of the recession, albeit at a slow pace, analysts are unlikely to cheer too loudly since the June numbers were being held up by a 37,200 increase in the lower-paying and often involuntary self-employment category, and a 40,100 increase in part-time workers.

“The job report is more good news than bad, but it would have been much better had the jobs been full-time. Self-employment can be meaningful or may not be. That’s one of the warts,” said Dale Orr, an economist and private consultant.

As well, the summer job market was cool in June as there were 43,000 fewer students aged 20 to 24 working than last year.

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