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Archive for January, 2010

GDP: The Road to Recovery?

Today’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) release paints a significantly improved picture of the Canadian economy. GDP rose by 0.4% in November. Statistics Canada also revised upward its previously released figures. GDP grew by 0.3% instead of 0.2% in October and 0.5% instead of 0.4% in September. While these figures are encouraging, they imply a slower annual […]

How Markets Fail

If you want to be reminded of the myriad of ways in which markets fail, you will welcome the new and timely book by John Cassidy titled simply How Markets Fail. Cassidy is not only an economist but a rare one who can write. Indeed, he writes so well that he is a regular contributor […]

Exhausting EI, Again

The content in the EI report by myself and Sylvain Schetagne which was released by the CCPA yesterday won’t be new to readers of this blog – an updating of trends in unemployment and EI use to show that tens of thousands of workers who lost their jobs early in the Great Recession are and […]

BC’s Urban Housing (Un)affordability

A new study published today by the Frontier Institute for Public Policy finds that Vancouver has the most unaffordable urban housing market not just in Canada, but in all of Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. This conclusion is based on a very simple, yet effective measure of housing affordability: […]

A Better Pensions Report

STEERING COMMITTEE OF PROVINCIAL/TERRITORIAL MINISTERS ON PENSION COVERAGE AND RETIREMENT INCOME ADEQUACY OPTIONS FOR INCREASING PENSION COVERAGE AMONG PRIVATE SECTOR WORKERS IN CANADA EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This paper released by BC Finance Minister Colin Hansen for the provincial/territorial ministers indicates much more fundamental problems with our pension system than those identified in the Mintz Report and […]

Now for some disaster relief on the homefront

I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at the public response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti. I’ve seen donations being collected through school bake sales, at the liquor store, and on Hockey Night in Canada, among the usual channels for such stuff. It’s nice to know that, collectively, we care, in spite of the neglect of […]

Bill Robson and the Future of Capitalism

On the eve of the Whitehorse meeting of Finance Ministers in December, the Howe released a report co-authored by Bill Robson which charged that the federal government’s pension plan liabilities on behalf of its own employees are greatly under-stated – to the tune of $58 billion. This sum  should, he argued, be added to the […]

EI: Fewer Recipients, More Claims

The number of Canadians receiving regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits declined by 7,300 in November. As always, we do not know whether these workers found jobs or simply ran out of benefits. The Labour Force Survey indicated higher employment and slightly lower unemployment that month, which supports a positive interpretation. Following these declines in recipients […]

Thinking about zero

I’m still coming out of my malaise following the Copenhagen climate conference in December. It’s easy to think that the stupid political brinksmanship is never going to end, and the focus of attention will shift to adaptive measures. But what is more likely is a few more Katrina scale disasters that will serve to spur […]

Inflation: A Paper Tiger

The obvious headline from today’s Statistics Canada release is inflation rising to 1.3% in December, its highest level in almost a year. However, the Consumer Price Index actually decreased between November and December. The overall price level was down 0.3% in absolute terms and 0.1% on a seasonally-adjusted basis. The annual inflation rate rose only […]

The Debate Over a Financial Transactions Tax

The case for a Financial Transactions Tax or FTT has crept in from the margins remarkably quickly. One year ago, the proposal for an internationally co-ordinated “Tobin Tax” on foreign exchange transactions was a dim memory from the early part of the decade. Today, the idea of broadening such a tax to include a far […]

Deteriorating Wages for Part-Timers

The Global Labour University are publishing an interesting series of Global Labour Columns. The most recent by Patrick Belser – author of the ILO Global Wage Report – looks at the impact of the Great Recession on wages. http://column.global-labour-university.org/2010/01/why-we-should-care-about-wages.html “Focusing on unemployment rates alone understates the true extent of the deterioration of employment and conditions […]

What Could Conservatives Cut?

Straight Goods contacted me last week for an article about what the federal Conservatives might cut to balance the budget. This concern is understandable given the previous Liberal government’s slash-and-burn approach to deficits. At a minimum, the Conservatives may use the deficit as cover to remove funding from particular programs or organizations that they dislike. […]

Productivity and Jobs

There is an interesting piece on productivity in today’s Daily looking at the changing relationship between output change and employment change in recessions, over time and as between Canada and the US. One part of the story is that employers used to hoard labour during recessions, but are now inclined to cut jobs and hours […]

Do Economists Have a Country?

We do, but many of us, particularly of  the orthodox persuasion, do our best to hide it in our work. Where we live is “content” but the models we use, we insist, are universal. But that begs the question of where the models, which do not fall from the sky, come from. The answer is […]

First the party, then the hangover

It’s shocking to think that the 2010 Winter Games are now exactly one month away. Yes, the banners are dropping down the side of downtown buildings; huge tents are being erected anywhere there is open space; advertising from any but the Olympic sponsors has all but disappeared (I hereby challenge any Olympic athlete to eat […]

Work and Labour in Canada

CSPI have just published the second edition of my book, Work and Labour in Canada: Critical Issues. While this is written mainly as a text for university level courses, others may find it useful as a resource on a wide range of labour market issues and trends, including the role of unions. The book can […]

Tackling economists

This month, I strangely find myself of the cover of BC Business magazine, along with four other economists (online version here). All but one academic are policy-oriented economists who comment regularly on the BC economic scene. The tag line for the cover goes like this: The Economists: They were supposed to predict the Great Recession […]

Global Imbalances

This IMF staff paper – the lead author is the chief economist, Olivier Blanchard -is well worth reading.  Makes a rather urgent call for expansion of internal consumption demand in China and currency realignments if  we are to work our way out of the crisis. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/spn/2009/spn0929.pdf

Job-Creation Needed

Both employment and unemployment edged down between November and December, reflecting a smaller total labour force. This news raises concern that some jobless workers are leaving the labour force altogether. However, the labour-force decrease was only 9,000, far smaller than the previous monthly increase. Overall employment changed so little because private-sector payrolls stabilized. While stability […]

Kevin Page Gives A Lesson on Transparency

The more I read about the Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, the more respect I have for him. He has proven to be an excellent choice for his position, much to the dismay of the Conservative government who created his job in the first place, back in the days when open government was on the […]

Is Our Pension System Really Working?

Further to my earlier post on the Mintz report on pensions http://www.progressive-economics.ca/2009/12/20/the-mintz-report-and-the-pensions-debate/ Statistics Canada have released the major study on income replacement rates in retirement by Yuri Ostrovsky and Grant Schellenberg which was cited at some length by Mintz. http://cansim2.statcan.gc.ca/cgi-win/cnsmcgi.pgm?Lang=E&AS_Abst=11F0019M2009321&ResultTemplate=/Stu-Etu/Anal_RchAbst The study looks at the incomes of retirees in their early 70s in 2006 in […]