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July 2012 LFS: No silver lining in 30,400 job losses, report figures suggest real losses likely greater

The Daily Labour Force Survey (LFS) report today started off with a chart showing job gains between July 2007 and July 2012; it even gives a link to the data table (CSV).  Conspicuously absent is a chart showing population growth over the same period, to give the reader context.  What the chart says: 2007-2012 saw seasonally-adjusted job growth of 4%, from 16.8 to 17.5 million.  What the chart does not say: according to Statscan’s own estimates, Canadian population growth for those age 15+ was 6.8% over the same period, from 26.5 to 28.3 million.

As already noted, not only have many Canadians stopped dreaming of ‘Freedom 55′, many aged 55+ appear to have re-entered the labour force over that same period.  The text of the report makes passing mention of women age 55+, without noting that their labour market participation rose from 1.15 to 1.52 million over 2007-2012, an increase of 32.3% – for context, that’s  double their population growth of 16.7% over the same period.  Labour market participation for women 65+ rose 77%, while their population only grew 16% from 2007-2012.  Low-income incidence for women suggests the move (back) into the labour force is more a matter of necessity than choice.

To sum it up, 1.8 million more Canadians age 15+, many 55+ remaining in/re-entering the labour market, but only 700 thousand more Canadian jobs between July 2007 and July 2012.  Unadjusted population, labour force and employment growth for the five year period were 6.8%, 5.0% and 3.6%, respectively.  Unadjusted job growth was nearly half the  population growth for those age 15+ and only two thirds that of labour market growth.

Also, Statscan does not report R8, the unemployment rate that includes some discouraged and involuntarily un(der)employed Canadian (CANSIM table 282-0085).  In July 2007 unemployment rate R8 stood at 9.2%.  In July 2012 it stands at 11.1%.  11.1% happens to be the same rate as in July 2011, and only slightly worse than the 11.6% of July 2010 when Canada was still incurring job losses  from the recession that began in late 2008.

The losses were spread across all categories of workers in July 2012, public sector, private sector and self-employed.  The labour market participation rate declined by 0.2% from June 2012, and was down 0.3% year over year.  If not for the continued retraction of workers from the labour force, the unemployment numbers would be significantly worse than reported.  Just between June and July 2012, the population increased by 36.9 thousand as the number of labour market participants declined by 7.8 thousand.

The one bright spot, the unexpected month to month increase of 11.7 thousand jobs in educational services, well, they weren’t teachers and professors.  Unfortunately, Statistics Canada only provides a labour market breakdown by industry (NAICS) and not occupation in its monthly LFS release.  A quick look at the break-down by occupation (NOC) shows that the number of teachers and professors declined (as expected) between June and July 2012, from 773.6 to 609.3 thousand (CANSIM table 282-0009).  A hiring spree of summer counsellors, security and admin staff at Quebec’s colleges and universities, or just another seasonal adjustment glitch?

Even the natural resources sector, the one that was supposed to make up for the hundreds of thousand of manufacturing jobs lots over the last five years, shed 8.9 thousand jobs between June and July 2012.  Manufacturing shed 18.4 thousand jobs over the same period.  Going with the 5-year picture, natural resources added 30.1 thousand jobs to the Canadian economy between July 2007 and July 2012, while manufacturing shed 226.3 thousand jobs over the same period.  That’s about 1 new natural resources job added for every 8 manufacturing jobs lost for the 2007-2012 period.  (The argument that natural resources somehow has a far greater multiplier effect in the Canadian labour market than manufacturing is hokum, which is why those making it never provide an estimate for either.)

Not even the Wal-marts and McDonalds were hiring in July apparently:  Sales and service jobs declined between June and July 2012 by 87.2 thousand.  Retail trade jobs declined by 17.3 thousand as did occupations in food and beverage service by 9.9 thousand.  These jobs usually rise during the summer vacation/tourism season.  And young workers (15-24) tend to rely on these temporary summer jobs, so it’s no surprise their employment declined over the same period by 9 thousand, and by 52 thousand over the previous year.

(So what types of jobs has the Canadian economy created over the last 5 years?  ’Technical, assisting and related occupations in health’ – 152.6 thousand, and ‘Occupations in social science, government service and religion’ – 105.7 thousand.  Non-professional health-related jobs and government jobs.  What this says for Canadian economic productivity may be worth a future write-up.)

As noted, the monthly figures for the LFS are a crap-shoot.  But the figures over the last year,  and especially the last five years, suggest continuing labour market difficulties.  Just from the preceding review it would seem the July 2012 job numbers were under-reported, despite being worse than analysts anticipated.  Indeed, the unadjusted job loss figures for June to July 2012 is 92,200 (CANSIM table 282-0001), more than triple the seasonally adjusted job loss figure reported for the same period, and greater than the same month to month unadjusted job loss figure of 61,100 in 2011, 80,300 in 2010 and 88,100 in the disastrous summer of 2009, the low-point during the recession. Just how bad the numbers were across the board in the July 2012 LFS report is remarkable.  That the report  appears to intentionally underplay this, alternately using the words ‘virtually unchanged’, ‘effectively unchanged’ and ‘little change(d)’ in the text, belies the figures.

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