The Harper jobs record? Depends on how you slice it …


In our newspapers Monday, I write about Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s visits beginning Monday through southwestern Ontario, an area of the country that’s been particularly hard hit by job losses, mostly in the manufacturing sector. You can read the column here.

But here, in this post, is some more background on what I’ll call the “Harper Jobs Record” based on data from Statstics Canada monthly labour force survey.

Economists, traders, and investors prefer to work in increments of “last month”, and “last quarter” but for the purposes of this post I will work mostly in political increments, i.e. since “last election” or since “Harper took over”. That said, we will, like economists, traders, and investors, find common ground in using a 12-month comparison for some data.

So let’s start with the biggest of pictures: Counting since May 2011 — the last time the country voted to  chose their economic stewards —  to the most recent data set (the corrected labour force survey info for July 2014), we find that there are more than 1.1 million people who call themselves Canadians now than there were in 2011 and there are 575,000 more new jobs, nearly 440,000 of which are full-time. So the population has grown 3.85%, the number of all jobs has grown 3.22%, the number of full-time jobs has grown 3.05% and the number of part-time jobs has grown 3.92%.

The number of Canadians who identify themselves as “unemployed” has dropped by about 24,000 or 1.8% since May 2011.

The national unemployment rate at the last election was 7.4%. Today, it is 7.0%.

That is the big picture you can count on hearing from the Conservatives.

New Democrats and Liberals, though, will be happy to put those numbers in a context which make them look a little less rosy.

They may, for example, turn to the OECD data set on job creation for the most recent 12 months (Q1 2014 versus QQ 2013) which shows that the overall number of jobs in Canada grew an anemic 0.81% in that period compared to the relatively robust 2.49% of our G7 partner the United Kingdom or even the 1.39% of our biggest trading partner, Obama’s America. Canada, during this 12-month period, was only 4th best in job creation in the G7 and a measly 17th among the 34 OECD countries.

It’s certainly true, as Conservatives often claim, that Canada did much better than its peers going into the 2008 recession and for the first few years coming out of it but, in the last year or so, Canada’s growth has been on the sluggish side compared to its peers.

So that’s the international yardstick which New Democrats and Liberals will use to beat up the Conservatives.

But there’s more grist for the opposition in the domestic numbers.

While the unemployment rate is down, that’s partly a function of the fact that the country’s work force is relatively smaller. In fact, the participation rate now is at the lowest level it’s been since Stephen Harper took office in 2006. Last month, 61.4 per cent of Canadians were in the work force (meaning they had a full-time job, a part-time job, or were actively looking for a job).  That’s not historically low — in fact, it’s a little above historic averages — but, if you’re a political party, you only get to brag about or defend the numbers generated on your watch and the simple fact is, when Harper took over in 2006, 62.4 per cent of Canadians were in the work force and fewer have chosen to be so now. (see chart at the top of the post)

And then there’s the sectoral changes. Under the Harper government, thousands of jobs in manufacturing and in agriculture have disappeared. Since May 2011, 34,000 fewer Canadians work in factories and 9,000 fewer work on a farm. The media — and I include my organization here — have done a pretty thorough job documenting manufacturing job losses but I’m not sure enough attention has been paid to our shrinking agricultural sector.

Let’s go even further back to when the Conservatives first took over in late January, 2006. Comparing job numbers since then we get this:

  • The population of the country has grown by 3.1 million people or 10.1%
  • The total number of jobs in the country has grown by 1.7 million or 9.3%
  • The total number of manufacturing jobs has dropped by 372,000 or 18%.
  • The total number of agriculture jobs has dropped by 39,000 or 12%.

Interestingly, the only sectors that have seen job losses since the May 2011 election are manufacturing, agriculture and — public administration.

Here’s the scorecard for other sectors — again comparing July 2014 to May 2011 – ranked by percentage job gain/loss:

  1. Transportation and warehousing +9.56% (+78,700 jobs)
  2. Educational services +11.03% (132,900 jobs)
  3. Health care and social assistance +5.65% (+118,300 jobs)
  4. Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas: +5.54% (+18,600 jobs)
  5. Accommodation and food services +5.27% (+57,200)
  6. Professional, scientific and technical services +4.51% (+59,100)
  7. Other services +4.19% (+31.200)
  8. Services-producing sector +4.1% (+552,600 jobs)
  9. Construction +3.49% (+43,800)
  10. Utilities +2.68% (+4,000 jobs)
  11. Trade 2.58% (+68,800)
  12. Information, culture and recreation +1.37% (+10,900)
  13. Finance, insurance, real estate and leasing +0.4% (+4,400)
  14. Business, building and other support services 0.33% (+2,300 jobs)
  15. Public administration -1.15% (-11,100 jobs)
  16. Manufacturing -1.97% (-34,600 jobs)
  17. Agriculture: -2.98% (-9,100 jobs)


3 thoughts on “The Harper jobs record? Depends on how you slice it …”

  1. So the Cons have allowed more immigration to Canada than they’ve been able to produce jobs to support. Add to this that a HUGE number of people come in on the TFW Boondoggle and we have a country whose government has taken away hundreds of thousands of jobs that would have paid well, mostly in the east, and moved hundred of thousands of low paid workers into the country to take the few appearing low wage jobs.

    Great. 2 steps forward, 12 steps back.

    Time for a MAJOR governmental change.

  2. These figures still are not accurate, as I refuse to participate in the survey do to HRSDC violating my legislated rights.

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