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November 2013 SEPH: More on the ‘unclassified’ jobs boom

Chart 1 Unclassified business payrolls
Chart 1 - SEPH unclassified business payrolls

Source: CASNIM Tables 281-0025 and 281-0063 Employment (SEPH), seasonally adjusted, for all employees for selected industries classified using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), monthly (persons), Statistics Canada

According to the preliminary figures in this morning’s SEPH release, payroll jobs are down 27,600. The good news: industry-classified jobs were down only 19,100, the remaining 8,400 loss accruing to the mysterious ‘unclassified’ sector – which now accounts for ‘only’ 417,100 jobs.

As mentioned in yesterday’s Economy Lab post, the number of unclassified jobs nearly equal the job total of four broad industry sectors combined. Statscan should either stop referring to the bold-highlighted figure as the ‘sector aggregate’ or footnote that it includes hundreds of thousands of payroll jobs from so-called businesses not classified to any industry sector.

SEPH-LFS comparison

That 27,600 SEPH-reported job loss for November 2013 doesn’t compare favourably with the 21,600 LFS-reported job gain for the same month. As reported in the November 2013 LFS release, 19,100 of those 21,600 LFS jobs were of the ‘self-employed’ variety.

The occasional LFS flourish of self-employment during the Great Recession – and still-shaky recovery five years on – tends to mask the Canadian economy’s (in)ability to create jobs. The November 2013 LFS self-employed job gains were lost twice over as the following month’s LFS release reported a drop of 37,900 self-employed. This highlights self-employment during an economic downturn and shaky recovery often isn’t ‘real’ employment (data quality/reliability aside); rather, it’s households doing their best to cope with a weak labour market.


Not that this was foreseen (well, kinda) but the contrast between the November 2013 SEPH and LFS releases underscores the importance of getting the payroll survey right. Unfortunately, as Chart 1 shows, the SEPH payroll employment data’s gone wrong in recent years.

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StatsCan’t be bothered with data requests

Promise today’s Globe write-up wasn’t co-ordinated with Stephen Gordon, who wrote a few days ago (in reference to the SEPH, but also more broadly)

Statistics Canada’s Attention Deficit Disorder
Stephen Gordon, Worthwhile Canadian Initiative January 23, 2014

Statistics Canada must be the only statistical agency in the world where the average length of a data series gets shorter with the passage of time.

That line is killer for those who’ve tried to get data from StatsCan in recent years. After ‘Data Liberation’ day in February 2012, hope was high. Then people started noticing CANSIM data tables discontinued, frozen or simply vanished.

A couple of points to add to Prof Gordon’s thoughtfully frustrated missive:

Having experienced it first-hand, StatsCan’s either sloppy or playing favourites, misrepresenting the availability of data to some (indicating it’s either not available or only available on a substantial ‘cost-recovery’ basis), while readily providing the same data to others gratis.

Dealing with a US statistical agency, like the Bureau of Labour Statistics or Census Bureau (which we have, on a number of occasions), really puts StatsCan’s poor service into perspective. Their US counterparts seem to bend over backwards to answer every question and provide detailed cross-tabs, many never published, just for the asking, sometimes sent to your inbox while you’re on the phone – even after advising them you’re not from the US.

And that’s without getting into the fact US, UK and other statistical agencies make available timely, complete public use microdata files (PUMFs) for all of their surveys, making it unnecessary to even call and ask about data in most cases. Contrast that with StatsCan: The last Survey of Household Spending PUMF was updated in 2009, and the file excludes key variables. While the Labour Force Survey is one of the few series the agency updates in a timely fashion, its PUMF has never included immigrant variables, despite the questions being part of the survey since 2006.

Despite assurances of a reply within a couple of business days, data requests sent to StatsCan sometimes go unanswered for weeks – often concluded with some variation of ‘it’s not available’ or ‘cost recovery’, and little effort to mask the punt.

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Keystone XL: Canada’s environmental record underscores US reluctance to approve project


NC6 submissions from Parties included in Annex I to the Convention
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 2013

BR1 submissions from Parties included in Annex I to the Convention
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 2013

Over the last couple days various Canadian media outlets have reported on the federal government’s quiet submissions to the UNFCCC late last month, in which it conceded likely not meeting its 2020 GHG emissions reduction targets.

For some reason, none of the articles include links to the actual reports. Above are links to UNFCCC Annex I countries’ National Communications (NC) and Biennial Reports (BR). They include reports from Canada (PDF), the United States (PDF) and fifteen other industrialised economics.

Canada’s report is an interesting read, if only for the myriad excuses proffered for its failure – which include the popularity of pick-ups and SUVs

Since 1990, there has been a 33% growth in transportation emissions in Canada, an increase that was mainly driven by an increase in cross-border trade, on-road freight transportation activity and a shift in personal vehicle ownership from cars to light-duty trucks.

By contrast, the US government promoted its recent submissions to the UNFCC on the Department of State website, touting its efforts and successes in reducing emissions. If the US wants to continue making progress on its environmental record, it’ll likely want to distance itself from Pig-Pen as much as possible. The US decision on Keystone XL will be telling.

Apologies to the Fraser Institute for ‘smearing’ Canada’s environmental record – with Canada’s official environmental record. (That canard was posted a week before the government’s hush-hush UNFCCC submissions.)

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The end of home letter mail delivery, and likely the beginning of the end of Canada Post (updated December 18, 2013)


Canada Post ends home delivery: The postman won’t ring at all
The Economist,

In a move that now seems like subliminal messaging, Canada Post celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Canadian postal service in 2012 by issuing a special set of stamps featuring the Royal Mail Ship Titanic.

So many things wrong with Canada Post Corporation (CPC) on so many levels, it’s like a microcosm of everything that’s gone awry with Canadian public administration in recent years.