Job numbers hit Tories in the gut

The Conservative government's talking points on jobs took a hit Friday as Statistics Canada reported a loss of 46,000 jobs in December.

The drop, "the results of declines in full-time work," means the unemployment rate rose 0.3 percentage points to 7.2%, Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey said. "Dampened by the decline in December, employment gains in 2013 amounted to 102,000 or 0.6%. Employment growth averaged 8,500 per month in 2013, compared with 25,900 in 2012."

The disappointing jobs numbers only tell part of the story.

The Conservatives repeatedly boast that Canada has the best economic record among G-7 countries, with more than 1 million jobs created "since the depth of the global economic recession." 

The problem? If you don't use selective statistics to skew the results, Canada is actually in the middle of the pack -- behind Germany, Japan and the United States -- when population growth and purchasing power are taken into account.

Broadbent Institute fellow Miles Corak, an economics professors with the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, also explains why Canada's isn't doing nearly as rosy as the Conservatives say.

"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," writes Corak.
 

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

Corak shows what Canada's real employment rate, as a fraction of the working age population, looks like:

 Miles Corak's employment rate graph

The data are to November 2013, with the dashed vertical lines bracketing the business cycle recession. Source: Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 282 0087.

 Photo: lendingmemo. Used under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.