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Archive for August, 2008

Lack of Investment Slows Economy

My take on today’s second-quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) release follows: Economy Shrinks, But Dodges Recession Canada’s GDP was lower at the end of June ($1,327,118 million) than at the end of last year ($1,328,606 million). Although the Canadian economy is smaller now than it was two quarters ago, it is technically not in recession […]

Recession, or No Recession?

What a cliff-hanger!  0.3% annualized growth for the 2Q, and no “official recession” (not yet, anyway).  I win my own pool (with my 0.2% guess).  I will devote my winnings to the CCPA.  The other guesses are posted in the comments section of the original recession-watch blog post here: http://www.progressive-economics.ca/2008/08/09/jimbos-official-recession-watch-lottery/ Couple of tidbits in today’s […]

Balancing on a Barrel: Canada’s Second-Quarter Current Account

In the second quarter of 2008, record oil prices outweighed the continuing manufacturing crisis, the worst services deficit ever recorded, and widening deficits in investment income and current transfers. The Surplus in Perspective The rise of Canada’s current-account surplus to $6.8 billion in the second quarter is positive news for the Canadian economy.  However, this surplus is […]

The People of Saskatchewan vs. PCS

The United Steelworkers union has been on strike at three Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan mines since August 7. This labour dispute raises much broader questions about the distribution of resource rents. The following op-ed, printed in today’s Regina Leader-Post, updates the op-ed printed in the Saskatoon StarPheonix before the strike. Workers, citizens miss potash profits The […]

Inflation Hits Wages

Comparing today’s Consumer Price Index figures for July 2008 with Labour Force Survey figures for the same month reveals that the annual increase in Canada’s average hourly wage (4.0%) barely exceeded the annual increase in Canadian consumer prices (3.4%). As a result, real wages rose by only 0.6% over the past year. In fact, relative […]

EI and Displaced Older Workers

The Task Force on Older Workers appointed by HRSDC Minister Solberg did endorse – in a limited way- labour’s call for severance pay to be ignored for EI purposes – but only for long tenure workers with a record of no prior EI claims in the previous 5 years. (My earlier post on this is  […]

Stock Markets vs. The Real Economy

In Saturday’s Globe and Mail, Brian Milner summarized Vitaliy Katsenelson’s historical analysis of American stock markets. He distinguishes “bull markets” from “range-bound markets”: . . . growth patterns may be similar. What separates the two are stock valuations, which soar to such unrealistic heights during raging bull periods that it takes years for them to […]

Olympic Alchemy

Since Vancouver is the next Olympic city, I have a morbid fascination with the ongoing trials and tribulations that we call the Olympics. Suffice it to say that China definitely got a black eye from the extra publicity in the lead-up to the Games, on Tibet, crackdowns on protest, pollution and smog, and displaced workers […]

Wal-Mart and US Politics

Several American labour groups have filed a complaint against Wal-Mart for instructing its employees to vote against Obama and other Democrats. I first got wind of this electoral controversy a couple of weeks ago through The Hamilton Spectator, which printed an Associated Press story that succinctly outlines Wal-Mart’s actions and the Employee Free Choice Act […]

More Statscan Censorship?

Once again, there seems to be a heavier hand in censoring or editing Statistics Canada’s releases.  This morning The Daily reported that: “Spending on research and development in the higher education sector amounted to $9.6 billion (current dollars) in the fiscal year 2006/2007.” but there was no word on whether this was an increase or decrease from the […]

Attention PCS Investors

The United Steelworkers’ union has just issued the following release: SHAREHOLDER ALERT: PCS STOCK UNDERPERFORMING COMPETITOR DURING STRIKE SASKATOON, SK — United Steelworkers’ (USW) Western Canada Director Stephen Hunt said Thursday that investors should use their influence to urge Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (PCS) management to negotiate a settlement with Steelworkers on strike at three […]

More Rose-Colouring from Statistics Canada

Am I the only one who detected a distinct note of spin-doctoring in the write-up of Statistics Canada’s eye-popping labour force release yesterday? Here are the first two paragraphs of the release: “Following gains at the beginning of 2008, and little change from April to June, employment dropped by 55,000 in July. The unemployment rate edged down 0.1 percentage points […]

Jimbo’s Official Recession-Watch Lottery

Friday’s eye-popping employment numbers (55,000 lost jobs, the worst one-month toll since the 1991 recession), combined with the previous week’s negative GDP numbers (down 0.1% in May, the fourth decline in six months), have raised once again the spectre that Canada’s total economy is teetering on the edge of “official” recession. The suspense is growing […]

Galbraith’s Predator State

James Galbraith bats this one out of the park: Years ago, I realized that the free-market, supply-side crowd, true conservatives who’d ridden high with Reagan, dislike Bush as much as I do. I speak of the hard money, low-tax, Wall Street Journal, deregulate-and-privatize team, the nemeses of my youth, people like Bruce Bartlett, Paul Craig […]

Canada’s Private Sector Stumbles

My take on today’s grisly Labour Force Survey follows: Private-Sector Meltdown Canada’s private sector eliminated 95,000 jobs in July. In other words, nearly 1% of Canadian private-sector jobs disappeared in a single month. The creation of 30,000 public-sector jobs and 11,000 self-employed positions offset less than half of this loss. Although manufacturing accounts for below […]

The Workers’ Olympics?

On the eve of the Beijing Olympics, recognition should certainly go to the scores of workers who toiled to build the stunning spors palaces and who have made China into the economic powerhouse it is today.  Instead, many have received layoff notices and warnings to leave the Chinese capital, as the New York Times reported […]

Next steps on climate action in BC

Yesterday, the Premier’s hand-picked Climate Action Team released its final report to the government. As is often the case with government, the CAT consisted of a range of “stakeholders”, although with one glaring omission: no representation from labour. The CAT has been deliberating for several months on how to meet the 2020 target of a […]

Devils, details and cap-and-trade

A year ago, I was firmly on the fence with regard to carbon taxes versus cap-and-trade systems. My internal conversation was around abstract, theoretical versions of what might happen, and at that point it was premature to consider how the two might play together as part of a hybrid system. Since that time, we now […]

Falling Poverty Among the Elderly – A Canadian Success Story

I was recently trolling through Statistics Canada (LICO – After Tax) data on CANSIM and discovered to my slight surprise that the incidence of poverty (or low income as StatsCan politely prefers to describe it) has fallen very significantly among the elderly (age 65 and over.) I knew the rate was relatively low and had […]

Two degrees and fairness

The CCPA’s Climate Justice Project released a new technical paper today on what BC’s targets should be in line with some notion of global equity. It is a nice collaboration between Colin Campbell of the Sierra Club of BC and Cliff Stainsby of the BC Government and Service Employees Union. The paper is, I have […]

Revisiting the minimum wage disemployment effects

Last Thursday the Vancouver Sun ran an opinion piece by yours truly entitled “BC’s minimum wage should not be a poverty wage.” I drew attention to the fact that between March 31 and May 1 this year, all other nine provinces increased their minimum wages and, as a result, BC now has one of the […]

Speculation and Commodity Prices

Michael  Masters’ recent testimony before the US Congress is being widely cited in support of the proposition  that speculation is having a big impact on upward and downward movements in commodity prices. As a long-standing futures market insider, he argues  quite persuasively that institutional investors such as hedge funds have entered commodities futures markets in […]

Ontario’s Health Premium

Yesterday, I appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs at Queen’s Park. The committee is reviewing the Ontario Health Premium, as required by the legislation that implemented this levy. My assessment of the premium starts from the premise that the Government of Ontario needs more revenue not only for healthcare, but also […]