A FactBook about employment in Canada based upon Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey

Employment of young people in Canada

Every month Statistics Canada releases employment and other labour market indicators. They are much used, much discussed, and arguably much misinterpreted. Here is a short FactBook about employment, using information from January 2005 to August 2014, clarifying some of the definitions, offering some suggestions on how to use the numbers, and highlighting some of the recent trends.

Employment Factbook using Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada January 2005 to August 2014

There are three major messages:

  1. If you want to be “really” certain that a month to month change in employment is not just statistical noise, then it has to be pretty large, say larger than 57,000
  2. Employment has barely kept up with population growth during the last five years; for young people this is not even the case, there being no growth at all
  3. The fraction of the working age population employed has yet to return to pre-recession levels, and has been falling during the past year, which seems to be due to a fall in the employment rate of women

Employment in Canada is up by a million … but that is hardly enough


“Employment is up by one million since the recession ended.”

A statement like this may indeed be a big talking point when Statistics Canada releases the results of its monthly Labour Force Survey on Friday.

While a million more people at work sounds like a lot, the Canadian population has also increased by roughly the same amount with the result that the fraction of Canadians working has been pretty well unchanged for the last five years, and has yet to return to rates before the recession.

A million is a big number, but it’s not enough to signal a complete recovery from the recession.

Continue reading “Employment in Canada is up by a million … but that is hardly enough”

Mr. Keynes and the Austrians: a battle over a suggested interpretation of unemployment

Arthur Cecil Pigou made lasting contributions to the science of economics, but for macro-economists of a certain generation he will always be considered a laughingstock.

Arthur C Pigou

Professor Pigou taught at Cambridge University during the first decades of the 1900s, and had the misfortune of making a cameo appearance in the opening chapters of what is arguably the most influential economics book of the 20th century, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, written with eloquence, and at times a very caustic pen, by his colleague at the same university, John Maynard Keynes (whose last name, by the way, sounds like “Canes”).

Pigou’s big mistake was to suggest that the unemployed themselves were to be blamed for their predicament. To Mr. Keynes, the notion that the persistently high unemployment rates of the Great Depression were in some sense voluntary was worthy of scorn and ridicule.

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Inequality and social mobility, an interesting discussion

Canada2020 event February 26 2013

“The idea that all citizens should have an equal chance to succeed in life, regardless of where they start, is fundamental to liberal societies and emblematic of the American—and Canadian—dream” is the way a Canadian think tank, Canada2020, introduces a panel discussion it hosted that explored the idea of economic mobility, why it is important, and how it is related to inequality of outcomes.

I was a member of the panel and had a very interesting—and at times humorous and entertaining—discussion with Zanny Minton Beddoes the economics editor of The Economist, Carolyn Acker the founder of Pathways to Education, and Ron Haskins a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. You can view the entire discussion, which was moderated by Diana Carney, by clicking on the following screen shot (and waiting a bit for it to load):

The short presentation I made at the beginning of the talk is, if you are interested, available here: Equality_of_Opportunity_A_Canadian_Dream_for_Canada2020

I plan on revising the background document I wrote for the event—which you can download from the Canada2020 website—and would therefore be very pleased to hear your views on the discussion, and any specific feedback you might have.

Three predictions for the January job numbers


On Friday Statistics Canada will release its estimates of the January job numbers, and after about 20 minutes of statistical modelling, using fuzzy data, over a small glass of red wine, I am prepared to make three predictions, albeit with different degrees of confidence.

First, I am most confident suggesting that January’s job growth will be less than the 40,000 recorded in December; second, I am confident that it will be less than 21,000, which is the average monthly change during the recent past; and third, if I had to offer a single number, I’d say the economy added only about 1,700 jobs in January.

All three ingredients—the statistics, the fuzzy data, and the red wine—were important in making my forecast, but realizing the data are fuzzy was crucial.

Continue reading “Three predictions for the January job numbers”

Secure jobs on the rise in Canada, but the young are still shut out of the jobs market

Mr. Carney can’t push on a string. And he knows it.

His now famous comment labelling the stockpiles of retained earnings held by Canadian firms  as “dead money”, while perhaps being the most memorable quote of 2012, must also have been made out of a certain frustration that even this superstar central banker faces limits in his powers to push, encourage, and otherwise jumpstart business investment.

The Governor of the Bank of Canada knows that the flip side of dead money is insecurity in the jobs market.

Continue reading “Secure jobs on the rise in Canada, but the young are still shut out of the jobs market”