Today’s Labour Force Survey

Today’s job numbers are good news in that they strongly suggest the economy is growing rather than slowing. Employment is up by a strong 55,000 jobs, the national unemployment rate remains at a relatively low 6.1%, and real wages are modestly rising. The overall jobs picture is a bit stronger than expected, and women are doing particularly well. (A record high rate of employment for adult women was reached in March.)

The bad news is that there is now a real danger that the Bank of Canada may decide to hike interest rates to deliberately slow the economy. This would boost the already high Canadian dollar, and deepen the ongoing manufacturing crisis.

Governor David Dodge and Bay Street bond traders should take note of some signs of  labour market slack hidden in the overall numbers.

– Almost half of the new jobs created last month were part-time, and they were concentrated in generally low paid parts of the private service sector such as retail trade.

– The ongoing crisis of the manufacturing sector continues, with another 5,000 jobs lost in Ontario in March, and little improvement in Quebec from last month’s massive manufacturing job loss which some had blamed on the CN work stoppage..

– Adjusted for inflation, hourly wages are up by well under 1% compared to a year ago, hardly a sign of a very tight job market.  

Modest good news should not set off fears that our economy is truly operating above capacity.

9 comments

  • Some thought should be given to the question: “Which jobs are assets and which are liabilities to the real economy?”

    Then there are the silly claims that: “We may have lost manufacturing, but doubled the service sector jobs”

    Which means : “We fired the production workers of the factory, but hired more clerks and janitors”.

    Then comes the usual propaganda demand for, quoting “3 timer Crispo” and his brainwashed students: “Specialize, specialize, specialize !”

    Which really means :”Incompetence, incompetence, incompetence, so you’ll have to rely on handouts from us, the rulers”

    The main purpose of so called “globalization”, is to program everybody for one job to become totally dependent on the rejuvenated Phalanster system, controlled by the elites.

    As one bearded economist by the name of Lang said it on CBC-TV some years ago: “We must subsidize the farmers to get them off the land”. The same applies to many other productive trades, as we have seen with the destructive FTA and NAFTA treaties, wiping out whole industries and the now secretly negotiated GATS.

    We have some large open pit, copper/gold mines in this neighbourhood, with a string of overloaded ore trucks breaking up and making deep grooves in the pavements of our roads, going to the seaports, because Canada has no processing facilities. The foreign “investors” would never permit them

    The workers are getting good wages, some of them my friends, and I’m happy for them. But they have to work 12 hour shifts for 7 days on and 7 off, as demanded by the foreign owners.

    And those trucks are taking Canada’s real wealth, and capital, abroad at $500,000/load, so, regardless of the phoney GDP, growth and productivity figures that would put any business into bankruptcy, are such activities beneficial, or destructive to the Canadian economy.

    I wrote “Canadian”, because, as my friends in the EU are finding out, internationalization and globalization are nothing more than long planned roads to the killing of democratic decision making powers and replacing them with the soviets of corporate fascism.

    Ed Deak.

  • I agree entirely with Ed. Both Jackson, all Union Brass and the CLC seem unable to see capitalism for the horror show it is. They even use corporatespeak: CEOs “earn” and “labour dispute”. They get sucked into PR myths, such as “6.1% unemployment”, overlooking the fact that the corporate-influenced government only counts those able to collect EI, which is only 30% of the unemployed. EI used to be UI before Paul Sweatship Martin mucked with it, making it impossible for 71% of unemployed women and 69% of unemployed men to collect it. Welfare, too, is mostly denied in the three riches provinces. There is no safety net–only desperate workers.
    The Economy may be doing great, but the People aren’t. There are no “strong jobs” anymore. They’re all seasonal, part-time, poorly paid, tenuous, with little or no benefits. Even the CIBC, hardly a caring champion of workers’ rights, says the quality of jobs have gone downhill. Everyone, but the rich, is in serious debt; paycheques away from homeless. Jackson is worried that the Bank of Canada guys will hike interest rates which might “deepen the ongoing manufacturing crisis”. What about those in debt?
    Anyways, what manufacturing is he talking about? Hundreds of thousands of good paying manufacturing jobs were lost to NAFTA. Fishing is shot on all coasts. Mines produce lots, but hire few and lay off lots. There are few value-added jobs left in Canada, considering the amount of our resources going out.
    But Alberta, they say, is booming. And the price? Colossal land and waterway destruction. Its western forests are being decimated and 90% of the caribou are dead. Every dawn on every stretch on every highway reveals another slaughter of dozens of ungulates. While pulp mills in BC and NB were closing, half a dozen opened up in Alberta and the smog is nearly as choking as the tarsands, where workers live in virtual trailer highrises right in ring of that eye-watering, lung-constricting smog. Cancer rates soar. Is “booming” worth all that? But the pay is good, some say. Oh yeah? The Big Pay around Fort Mac is non-existent for “campies” and seismic crews. Besides, workers incur huge expenses just to get there and survive there: expensive fireproof clothing, geared for the intense cold; tools; and required courses, like H2S Alive, TDG, WHMIS, First Aid, Mine Search and Rescue, Confined Space, etc. Why these courses are required, I have no idea. There’s no safety program, except on paper–and the perennial windsock. The entire onus for safety is laid on the harassed workers. The rule is: Don’t get hurt. If you do, chances are you’ll be fired on some pretext of convenience, if you aren’t downright hauled out of the ambulance back to work. There are transportation costs–like the rest of the trip home from Calgary or Edmonton that the oil companies don’t pay for. The season is short: November to April, if they’re lucky. Is Jackson aware of any of this? CLC’s Georgetti? The top Brass of any major union?
    Is Jackson even aware of the concessions made in many unionized workplaces, resulting in a two-tiered wage and benefits system that make a mockery of union solidarity? Why should workers get less pension, simply because their bosses pay them less? How fair and equitable is this? Rent is set by landowners–not on how much you can afford to pay.
    I think Jackson and Union Brass should strive for fair and sustainable management of all our resources, instead of beating their heads against a corporate brick wall, trying to alter an unfair, unworkable and ultimately life-destructible system.

  • Susanne:

    I can assure you that the CLC is aware of these issues. In last month’s release, for example, we questioned the Labour Force Survey’s seemingly low unemployment rate. In the one before that, we cited the CIBC document to which you refer.

    http://progecon.wordpress.com/2007/03/09/35000-manufacturing-jobs-gone-in-one-month/

    http://www.canadianlabour.ca/index.php/feb_2007/Job_Numbers_Fulltime

  • Ed and Susanne,

    If your analysis of globalization is correct do you really think it is the putative “labour Brass” and their lexicon that is problem here? The post from Jackson merely pointed out (1) that the state does control the interest rate and the value of the Canadian dollar to a point (2) that such policies have an impact on manufacturing employment (3)that even in such a “permissive” monetary environment the job numbers and quality is suspect and (4) that the supposed boom is really not even close to a full capacity economy in which workers have the capacity to bargain up wages and the conditions of their employment. These are pretty radical observations in today’s ideological climate.

    I too would prefer a more radical language but then I am not communicating with policy makers or a membership that votes liberal more often than it votes for the putatively social democratic NDP.

    Susanne writes:

    “I think Jackson and Union Brass should strive for fair and sustainable management of all our resources, instead of beating their heads against a corporate brick wall, trying to alter an unfair, unworkable and ultimately life-destructible system.”

    Sure that sounds great but it suffers from a spurious view of the power of union leaders. As if they could call all their members out and shut the system down. Were there that kind of millitancy among members you would not have to call on the “Brass” to mobilize anyone.

    Of course this raises the question of union organizing leadership and the development of a stronger union movement but that is a problem of organizing and education and not so much one of language.

  • Travis, I never mentioned any “labour brass” although, had some interesting experiences in the past, when, for example the CLC refused to do anything about the first FTA, with disastrous consequences to Canada, and the unions, and later, when I was told that the chief economist of the IWA couldn’t see anything wrong with the proposed MAI. ??????????

    The biggest problem facing humanity and the Earth today, is the wholesale swallowing and enforcement of the neoclassical market economy theory, which is now destroying and killing more people on a long run daily basis than both World Wars and the death camps of Stalin, Hitler and Mao put together.

    This is where I have to question: Where are all the so called “social democratic” and “green parties”, the CoC, and the unions to point out this, now the biggest crime wave in human history, obvious, well documented and staring in our faces ?

    Where are they to point out that the WTO, IMF and all these phoney “free trade agreements” are not only the death of any and all democratic decision making powers, but outright criminal organizations to exploit, rob and destroy.

    By the way, I’m a long time NDP member and not very happy .

    Ed Deak, Big Lake, BC.

  • The CLC was at the forefront of the free-trade election campaign no? Jim Stanford has come out on several occasions and attacked the assumptions of free trade deals (which for an economist is a heretical position). And on these very blog pages there has been a steady stream of criticism of the proposed TILMA agreements.

    One of the big problems for unions is that they are in the business of advocating for job growth and in the context globalization, where owners of capital have much more power than owners of labour power, the terms of debate are necessarily highly skewed in the favour of owners of capital.

    I think if there is criticism to be had of organized labour and the NDP they have failed to (a) hammer out an alternative plan for economic development and (b) engage in the kind of grass roots organizing that it would take to build up support for such a plan.

    But this programmatic and organizational malaise is not unique to Canada, it is problem across the advanced capitalist zone. Unions and the social democratic parties to which they are aligned have thus far been contained within the terms of debate as determined by TINA.

    I do not think that a more radical language at this stage is the solution. What is needed to break the TINA strangle hold is a coherent and sober plan which acknowledges both the medium and long term benefits of such a plan while acknowledging the negative short and medium term consequences of implementing such a plan. The war on the deficit shows that you can sell short term pain for long term gain (even if what we got was long term pain).

    The environmental crisis is putting the direct collective regulation of capitalism back on the agenda and this may open up a political space for labour and the NDP to make a more critical break with current orthodoxy.

    Travis Fast, formerly of Chilliwack, BC.

  • Travis,

    As long as economic efficiency is defined with the fraudulent term of “the biggest profits for the least monetary inputs”, there’s no hope for any betterment. (Yes, I know the textbook versions, but they all say and mean the same in fancy, academic convolutions, so why waste time on them).

    This is the key to all and everything, because, as long as power elites have scriptural justifications for exploitation, theft and even murder, there’s nothing to stop them, and it is the falsely used word of “efficiency” that now gives them this power.

    Also, since bank deregulation, in Canada’s case by Mulroney, in secret in 1991, money has become “the licence to control energy, issued by a special interest sector for its own benefit”

    Our banks are now permitted to “create” money from the air, to take over the properties and jobs of any and everybody in any parts of the world with that imaginary capital, using the stolen properties as collaterals. Check it out. The so called “foreign investors”, for example bring nothing to a country, yet are empowered by that nothing to expropriate and collectivize. In other words, today’s economic theory is not a science, but a pseudo religion.

    Also, unions were the biggest losers from the free trade treaties, and not “agreements”, by losing tens of thousands of members in the forest sector alone.

    What people will have to come to grips with one day, once and for all, is that human labour doesn’t cost anything to an economy because it is energy neutral, and that automation, hi tech and so called “competitive equilibrium”, the holy grails of phoney “wealth creation”, do not lower but increase and transfer costs on account of increased energy demands. Poverty and global warming, just to name 2, are increased, hidden and transferred costs.

    I was involved in the fight against the FTA in 1986-88, wrote articles against it and still have a file drawer full of materials on it, so I know very well what went on and who was for and against it.

    Calling fraud a fraud is not any radical language, but a fact. E.g. When workers are fired so their wages can be expropriated by “investors”, without lowering prices to the public, it is simple conspiracy to defraud and theft.

    Ed Deak.

  • Susanne

    Not sure what lies behind your rant, but a quick glance at the CLC’s research output would show that we have documented many of the trends and forces at work which you cite – the growth of precarius employment, declining UI coverage for unemployed workers etc. The CLC does have an economic program as well – which can and should be debated. It falls well short of saying we should abolish capitalism immediately – but it WAS debated and adopted by 3,000 odd delegates to our last convention.

  • Andrew,

    The key to the solution of the present and daily growing mess is the redefinition of economic efficiency on strict physical terms, as the “most work done with the least energy/resource inputs”

    As long as the present, monetary profits form of definition is continued there’s no hope for any improvement.

    Present monetary figures, especially with our present deregulated money creation system that benefits a multinational, special interest sector, while transferring the convertibility demands of that imaginary capital on society, mean absolutely nothing.

    The stock, futures and money markets, with their wildly fluctuating prices, are prime examples of the meaninglessness of present monetary figures.

    Also, the so called “market economy” is a big joke and PR brainwash for legalized exploitation, because when 99 people go to the market, each with $1. in their pockets and 1 person with $100. the theory of the marketplace is shot and the people themselves become a “commodity”.

    Which has been the basis of all imperial, colonization systems in history.

    While in the past colonization and oppression were accomplished with the force of arms under the control of special, “divinely blessed” aristocracies, it is now done with the perceived power of imaginary capital, freshly created by some bank, handed out to a new kind of aristocracy blessed by the Money God who exists only in computer figures.

    Obviously, we need money. I have seen the postwar years in Europe when money was worthless and everything was defined in cigarette and blackmarket figures, and it was sheer hell. But the value of money should be controlled by society, and tied to physical numbers, not to gambling and control by crooks.

    What happened to the concept of “overcapitalization” past textbooks were warning against? Fell to “competitiveness”, that works on the laws of speed, with huge energy inputs achieving less and less, while the reactions are inflating our living costs every day, calling it the “competitive equilibrium of the marketplace”.

    Ed Deak.

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