Thursday, February 24, 2011

Some job numbers perspective on economic PR blitz day

Today is Conservative economic pr blitz day: "More than 70 Conservative MPs, ministers, and senators will fan out across the country Thursday to push the virtues of their so-called Economic Action Plan." The Harper government that claims not to want an "opportunistic election" will act today as if there is actually an election underway. At our expense and on a grand scale. 

To mark the occasion and maybe to push back against some of the glowing accounts of government economic self-love, let's look at some job numbers as perspective! These are the numbers the government uses these days to fend off criticism of the Economic Action Plan (from Sun link):
"The government, though, shrugs off that kind of criticism by pointing to the latest job numbers. Statistics Canada says that 460,000 new jobs have been created since the depth of the recession in July, 2009 - that's the strongest job growth in the G7 - and the economy has grown now for five straight quarters. So far as jobs go, the economy is pretty much back to where it was before the recession.
But then there are the other troubling numbers that become apparent after a deeper look at the situation:
Employment has bounced back from the recession, but behind that rosier picture lies a labour market still in the midst of a painful healing process.
But today’s employment landscape looks dramatically different than it did before the downturn: The number of jobless people rose by 800,000 between October, 2008, and October of last year. More people are involuntarily working part-time, and long-term unemployment has surged – to nearly a quarter of jobless people, from 15 per cent before the downturn.
Canada’s official jobless rate has ebbed to 7.8 per cent. But a broader measure, which captures discouraged workers and involuntary part-timers and is also known as the “underutilization” rate, was 10 per cent in October, 2010 – not much improved from a year earlier.
There were 113,000 fewer full-time positions in October, 2010, than two years prior, and the number of involuntary part-time workers swelled by 20 per cent in the two years.
The number of “non-participants” in the labour market rose by nearly half a million people, with students and seniors accounting for the bulk of that gain.
Those numbers from the Globe report are found in the original source, the Statistics Canada study released yesterday, "Inside the labour market downturn" (see also full article).

Employment is a key indicator of the economic health of the nation and the stats as presented by the government deserve that extra context. What is the government's plan to deal with the still substantial numbers of jobless and the loss of full-time jobs, i.e., the higher paying ones? What is the plan beyond the one that is in our rear view mirror? Will there be any questions allowed at any of the stage managed and very pretty events today? Consider that last one a rhetorical question.

Maybe they all should be at work solving such matters rather than blitzing the country with all the photo ops and patting themselves on the back.