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The Progressive Economics Forum

Bank of Canada, Exports, and LMI

Much has been made about Stephen Poloz’s decision to abandon ‘forward guidance’ in Bank of Canada rate setting announcements for the time being. Critics bemoan the loss of direction from the Bank. But Poloz’s comments yesterday were chock full of guidance on how the Bank sees Canada’s economic situation.

Having been disappointed by the failure of Canada’s export sector to resume investment or show any signs of life, researchers at the Bank investigated the performance of 2,000 product categories, and found that about 500 of those had very nearly been wiped out following the 2008 – 2009 recession. Further investigation found a permanent loss of capacity in some manufacturing export sub-sectors. Most surviving manufacturing exporters are still operating at or below capacity. This means we shouldn’t expect a whole lot of business investment in these sectors any time soon.

This permanent loss of capacity isn’t truly permanent, we can rebuild, but doing so will take more time, and will wait until conditions are much more certain. This has disastrous consequences for workers, particularly in southern Ontario where much of the loss has been located.

Stephen Poloz’s statement is clear on this. The size of the output gap is somewhat deceptive because of this loss of capacity. A clearer picture of the weakness Canada is experiencing shows up in the labour market gap. Which the Bank very carefully measures, by the way. The Bank’s aggregate LMI diverged from the unemployment rate in late 2012. TD Economics put together their own aggregate labour market indicator, that also shows the labour market is weaker than the unemployment rate shows.

This might be the perfect time for some public infrastructure investment (as recommended by the IMF), say, in affordable childcare spaces.

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