Revised LFS Numbers Don’t Change the Big Picture
What a rough week it’s been over at Statistics Canada.Â It’s a world-renowned statistical agency — though its lustre has been tarnished in recent years by budget cuts, cancelled data programs and series, and the nonsense of the Harper government’s libertarian crusade against the long form census.Â The problems this week around its Labour Force Survey report for July will certainly contribute to the sense of entropy surrounding this important and valuable institution.
The biggest change in the numbers is that full-time employment is now estimated to have declined by about 20,000, instead of the original 60,000.Â Not exactly something to boast about.Â 60,000 part-time jobs were created (same as the original report).Â The unemployment rate is the same as the original report — and exactly the same as 18 months ago.Â The participation rate is unchanged from June: higher than in the original report, but still stuck at its lowest level since 2001.
I published a Globe and Mail commentary on Canada’s stagnant labour market based in part on the original LFS report.Â Today’s revised numbers do not materially change the argument I made there, which is that Canada’s much-vaunted economic recovery was over-rated in the first place, and in fact ran out of steam a long time ago.Â Â There has been no sustained labour market progress for over three years.Â The employment rate is languishing just a hair above its level in June 2009 — the trough of the recession.Â That means job-creation since the trough of the recession has only just kept up with growth in the working-age population (ageing demographics is part of that story, too, on top of poor job-creation).
And the revised LFS numbers still confirm a growing contrast between the accelerating U.S. recovery and the stagnation and “serial disappointment” (Stepehn Poloz’s catchy phrase) of Canada’s trajectory.Â In the last year the U.S. economy created 2.3 million full-time jobs; Canada’s created barely any (with the smaller-than-originally-reported loss of full-time employment in July, the year-over-year change is now positive but miniscule).Â The U.S. unemployment rate has dropped 1.7 points since January 2013.Â Canada’s hasn’t budged.Â The stark difference in macro policy stance between the two countries is clearly an important factor behind this take of two recoveries: American policy is emphasizing job-creation, and mobilizes conventional and unconventional levers to get there, while Canadian policy is dominated by orthodox concern with balancing the budget.
In short, I think Canada’s relative underperormance since 2011 will become increasingly damaging to the Harper government, given how much it has invested in its reputation (deserved or not) as the “best economic managers.”