The Dubious Quality of New Jobs
I spent the better part of this morning sifting through the latest release of Statcan’s Employment, Earnings and Hours release to get a bit of a fix on what’s happening to all of those displaced manufacturing workers. We in the labour movement tend to see a big shift from reasonably good manufacturing jobs to bad private service jobs – which over states the case a bit in that manufacturing doesn’t pay hugely above average wages, and in that there are a lot of good service sector jobs being created. Nonetheless, the data for changes from February, 2006 to February, 2007 – the most recent available – are more than a little unsettling. Over that period, ALL of the increase in paid jobs (ie employees) was in the form of increased hourly paid as opposed to salaried employment, and of the new hourly paid jobs created, fully half were in the two lowest paid private service sectors – retail trade (up 130,000) and accommodation and food services (up 53,000.) Quite a lot of the remaining job creation seems to be in the lower paid parts of health and social services. And, over the same period, the hourly wage of hourly paid workers rose by just 2.2%, exactly in line with the inflation rate. This could be fairly summarized in this statement – “the majority of the new jobs are in low paid private services, and the real hourly wages of hourly paid workers are flat as a pancake.” This puts all of that talk about our tight job market and growing skills shortages in perspective, not to mention the complacent assumption that displaced workers are doing just fine since we have a low unemployment rate.
I strongly recommend that somebody within the PEF and/or related affiliates take up the challenge to convince statcan to start publishing their statistics to better reflect the nature of employment creation, i.e. the degree of precarious employment. It is possible using the current numbers from the Labour force survey to come up with some wage estimates and other notions on the quality of work. On the supply side their is again ample information from SEPH to come up with some quality measures of jobs.
I think it may take some independent research to explore such a methodology with the aims of setting up some kind of permanent measure. Given the redesign of the LFS in 1997 it is definitely a possibilty. I have read in the methodology of the LFS that income related questions have a higher item non-response than other parts of the survey and therefore income estimates based upon occupationally codes at a one digit NOC is not advised. However, a less modal distributional characteristic could be used in creating a more robust measure, it does not necessarily have to be occupationally related, potentially geographically based would be more informative and could be control more given the current sample design strategy.
Given the drastic cuts to the sample size of the non-payroll portions of SEPH, I am unsure of how reliable such measures might be. THe payroll numbers are quite robust but the surveyed portion is only barely acceptable at the Canada level.