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The Progressive Economics Forum

February Labour Force Woes

The unemployment rate is up again this month, to 7.3%, with 1.4 million workers looking for jobs in February. A loss of full-time work was partly replaced by part time positions. A disproportionate percentage of last year’s growth came from precarious self-employment.

Remember those heady days when we could say that at least Canada’s unemployment rate was lower than the U.S.? Yeah. Adjusted to U.S. concepts the Canadian unemployment rate is 6.2%, compared to their 4.9%.

Well, all is not lost. The Alternative Federal Budget was released yesterday, and it included some pretty key investments to create jobs, boost economic growth, lower income inequality, and lift people out of poverty.

While there are many great suggestions in the AFB (fully costed, with a distribution impact assessment), the job numbers today show that improvements to Employment Insurance are particularly urgent. And with EI, skills training and supports to help workers adjusting to shifts in the economy.

Saskatchewan, my home province, lost 7,800 jobs in February, and 6,000 more workers left the labour market. Alberta has lost more than 50,000 full time jobs over the past year. Having lost high wage jobs in the natural resource industry, many are wondering what comes next.

This is why the labour movement talks about a just transition. Individual workers shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of economic restructuring on their own. A strong social safety net, skills training programs, and thoughtful social and physical infrastructure investment can cushion the blow for workers now, and speed the transition to a more prosperous future.

Go read the AFB, it’s time to move on.

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Comments

Comment from Larry Kazdan
Time: March 11, 2016, 6:44 pm

Letter in Toronto Star (with footnotes to Editor)

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2016/03/07/how-best-to-end-wealth-inequality.html

Re: A realistic plan to narrow the income gap: Goar, Mar. 2, 2016

An estimated 2/3 of poverty could be eliminated simply by offering jobs, even at a minimum livable wage, to those willing to work. Yet the creation of jobs is conspicuously missing from the seven elements of the plan proposed by the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

If a major war began tomorrow, contracts for armaments would be tendered immediately and all the unemployed would be offered jobs in the military. The money to do so would be found, just as it was when WWII followed the Great Depression.

More recently, the government had no difficulty offering $200 billion under the Extraordinary Financing Framework to support big financial institutions after the 2008 crash.

Direct job creation could include provisions for care of the elderly and disabled, education and activity for young people, arts and cultural performances and projects, and initiatives for environmental clean-up and protection. Reversing income inequality in Canada by creating jobs is simply a matter of political will, and the belief that we must wait 35 years to do so is obstructionist.

Footnotes:

1. L. Randall Wray, Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Research Director with the Center for Full Employment and Price Stability and Senior Research Scholar at The Levy Economics Institute.
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/04/mmt-policy.html

Well it’s very easy to reduce the inequality that results from low income, from poverty, from low wages; all you have to do is offer jobs. Minsky did a calculation [in] 1974 and Professor Kelton and I did one around 2000. We showed that if you just give a job to anyone who wants to work you will eliminate two thirds of all poverty, even if you pay only the minimum wage. We would like to see the job pay more than that, but even at a minimum wage you eliminate two-thirds of all poverty. So most poverty is due to joblessness. People who cannot get jobs or maybe they get jobs that last a few months and then they are unemployed again. We need permanent jobs that pay a decent wage and you’ll eliminate most poverty. You’ll still need some kinds of anti-poverty programs but the jobs are the best anti-poverty programs there are, then you need something else to fill the gaps.

more on Job Guarantee:

http://mmtincanada.jimdo.com/policy-issues/job-guarantee/

2. Improving Access to Financing and Strengthening Canada’s …
http://www.fin.gc.ca/pub/report-rapport/2011-7/ceap-paec-2f-eng.asp

To soften the impact of the crisis, the first phase of Canada’s Economic Action Plan included measures to provide up to $200 billion to support lending to Canadian households and businesses through the Extraordinary Financing Framework.

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