The recent Globe and Mail leaders’ debate focused on the economy. One important – albeit crudely constructed – question asked during the debate was: “Do you have a jobs plan for industry beyond taking things out of the ground”. The question presumed that natural resource extraction has been a big employment driver in Canada, which it hasn’t. That aside, the implicit question was whether the aspiring leaders had a plan for, or even wished to see, greater industrial diversification in Canada. None of the candidates provided a direct response to the question. However, one response in particular stood out for its reference to international trade.
Last month’s inaugural Job Vacancy and Wages Survey (JVWS) release by Statistics Canada – which the agency emphasises was undertaken on behalf of Employment and Skills Development Canada (ESDC) – raised more questions than it seemed to answer. When initially contacted for comment, Statscan indicated it would be releasing more data by the end of September. That data, along with additional feedback provided by the agency, points to problems with the survey. It’s worth mentioning that ESDC was the source of the now infamous Kijiji jobs report – because the JVWS bears a striking resemblance to it.
Consider this the 2011 NHS: How much less we now know, illustrated *, FED edition.
… and how much less reliably we know it, owing to Statistics Canada’s remarkably lowered data quality standards.
If you’ve recently visited the Statscan web site, you’ve likely noticed the ‘Features’ widget on the front page. Atop the list of featured content is a link to the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS). With the federal election in full-swing, it’s tempting to compare the 2011 NHS data by Federal Electoral District (FED) in the hopes of gleaning some insight into whether/how socio-demographic/economic characteristics play a role in election results.
Given reader interest in last year’s labour day post, here’s a follow-up. As touched on then, historically, Canadian labour unions have had issues representing racial minorities in Canada. In what was meant to appear as an effort to address this shortcoming and get with demographic reality, over the last couple of years several Canadian labour organisations elected racial minority members as either presidents or executive council members.
Last year’s post highlighted a 2010-2011 survey conducted on behalf of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). The reported results indicated only 15 of 52 CLC affiliates even bothered responding to the employment equity survey, with just 2 respondents indicating they’d implemented a program to assess racial diversity. But that was before all the newly elected minority labour execs took office. So how have things progressed since then?
Chart 1 Canadian and US real GDP, 2007-2011
Source(s): Statistics Canada and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
Editor’s Note: This post was inspired by a note from a friend of and frequent contributor to this site, which has since been posted as a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business.
With the Canadian general election campaign in full-swing amid incessant ‘technical recession’ chatter, it should come as no surprise to once again see finger-pointing at the (current/outgoing?) government’s performance during the Great Recession.
A recent Globe and Mail op-ed attempted to do just that. Unfortunately, it was riddled with factual errors and otherwise muddled whatever criticism it intended to parry.
Editor’s Note: This is a follow-up to a post earlier this month that promised to provide historical context.
Chief statistician: Why the census is counting visible minorities
It is in everyone’s interest that debate on issues related to employment equity ‘be supported by objective … data rather than by impressions, unfounded opinion or stereotypes.’
Ivan P. Fellegi
The Globe and Mail
Friday, April 26, 1996
This is the text of a letter sent this week to a number of Canadian newspapers by Ivan Fellegi, chief statistician of Canada, Statistics Canada, in response to criticisms of Question 19 in the 1996 census. (One critic, Reform MP Mike Scott of the B.C. riding of Skeena, had suggested that Canadians identify themselves as Martians to “send a signal to the federal government that Canadians have had enough of this garbage.”)
Chart 1 Change in hours and wages, Retail trade, Ontario, 1983-2014*
Source(s): CANSIM tables for Survey of Employment Payroll and Hours (SEPH), Statistics Canada. (See Note 6)
Encouraged by recent initiatives in relatively more prosperous US jurisdictions (Seattle and San Francisco), Canadian labour groups, particularly those out west (BC and Alberta), have taken to calling for dramatic minimum wage hikes. These labour groups cite research they interpret to mean that min-wages do not affect (dis)employment, and assert that mandated wage hikes will help address income inequality and/or alleviate poverty. Unfortunately, the min-wage research to date does not support this assertion. That may have more to do with the challenge of distinguishing between min-wage and other effects. Perhaps the best approach is not to try to discern the direct effect of min-wage policy at all, but rather infer it from broader labour market trends.
Source: The Importance of the Long Form Census to Canada, David A. Green and Kevin Milligan, Canadian Public Policy – Analyse de politiques, vol. xxxvi, no. 3 2010
This Thursday, Statistics Canada will be updating the Consumer Price Index (CPI) basket weights with the latest results from its 2013 Survey of Household Spending (SHS). While this CPI basket update will be the second undertaken since a major SHS redesign in 2010, little information about the household spending survey has been made publicly available since then. Statscan stopped producing public use micro data as well as data quality reports for the SHS immediately following the redesign. The official reason: “There will be no public use microdata file (PUMF) for SHS 2010 due to resource constraints.”
Statscan’s sudden lack of transparency following years of declining data quality and a significant overhaul of its key household spending survey is cause for concern.
Canada’s 2011 long-form census fiasco was brought to the fore again last week with the introduction of Bill C-626. The private member’s bill seeks to amend the Statistics Act to mandate the long-form survey and provide the Chief Statistician with greater administrative autonomy. While there’s no debating its voluntary replacement rendered useless results at exorbitant cost, the proposed legislation, even if successful, won’t necessarily assure the long-form census’ future success.
It’s been written those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Although never mentioned in the ongoing public discourse, what’s happening with the long-form census is basically the Survey of Family Expenditures (FAMEX) all over again. And that didn’t turn out well.