LONDON, Ont. - Premier Dalton McGuinty defended the HST as a job creator on a day when figures show Ontario shed almost 23,000 jobs in September, all in the services sector which includes retail jobs.

McGuinty is in London, Ont., where he told radio station CJBK that Ontario has to take tough measures to stay competitive in a world that's now much more competitive because of globalization.

Statistics Canada reports Ontario's unemployment rate remained steady at 8.8 per cent last month while nationally the rate fell one-tenth of a point to eight per cent.

McGuinty said he's heard a lot of complaints about the HST, which went into effect in July, but Ontario businesses need to be on a level playing field with 140 other countries.

The premier said that according to economists, the HST in combination with other tax reforms that the government has put in place will create 600,000 new jobs.

London's jobless rate was 8.5 per cent but the rate was higher in other Ontario cities including Toronto at 9.2 per cent and Oshawa, Sudbury and Windsor, which were 10 per cent or higher.