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Fact check: putting the Conservatives' "million net new jobs" into context

The Conservative Party recently launched the “We're better off with Harper” campaign with the claim that “with over one million net new jobs created in the recovery, Canada's economy is on the right track – thanks to the strong leadership of Stephen Harper and Canada's Conservatives.”

The number in that claim is carefully chosen, and taken in isolation is factually correct. In the five years of recovery from June 2009 to June 2014, total employment indeed rose by 1,091,400 jobs.

But if we do the count from June 2008, before the onset of the recession and the big job losses it caused, the increase in employment to date has been a more modest 753,000 jobs. And the national unemployment rate in June 2014 was, at 7.1%, still significantly higher than the average of 6.0% in 2007 and 6.1% in 2008.

Most importantly, Canada's employment rate – the proportion of the working-age population with a job – is still well below pre-recession levels.

Missing jobs in Canada's weak recovery (employment rate in %)

  June 2008 June 2014 Change Missing Jobs
All 64.9 62.7 -2.2 638,810
By gender
 Men 69.7 66.8 -2.9 415,335
 Women 60.3 58.8 -1.5 220,723
By age
 Age 15-24 64.3 60.1 -4.2 185,795
 Age 25-54 83.3 81.5 -1.8 264,564
 Age 55+ 33.0 36.1 3.1 -307,368
By province
 Newfoundland & Labrador    55.5 55.3 -0.2 855
 Prince Edward Island 67.1 66.3 -0.8 973
 Nova Scotia 60.8 59.2 -1.6 12,486
 New Brunswick 61.1 59.4 -1.7 10,538
 Quebec 62.7 61.3 -1.4 94,388
 Ontario 64.5 62.1 -2.4 272,064
 Manitoba 67.9 65.3 -2.6 25,633
 Saskatchewan 67.9 68.5 0.6 -5,055
 Alberta 73.6 70.7 -2.9 95,082
 British Columbia 64.3 60.5 -3.8 148,287

Source: Statistics Canada CANSIM 282-0001.

Monthly data not seasonally adjusted. The employment rate is persons employed as a percentage of the working age population. Missing jobs calculated as the additional number of persons who would have been employed in June 2014 if the employment rate had been the same as in 2008. Subtotals by age group do not add to total because of changes in age composition of the population.

Between June 2008 and June 2014, the overall employment rate fell from 64.9% to 62.7%. In other words, in June 2014 the proportion of all persons aged 15 and over with a job was 2.2 percentage points lower than in June 2008.

If the employment rate in June 2014 had been the same as in June 2008, 638,810 more Canadians would have had jobs.

The employment rate for men has fallen from 69.7% to 66.8%, 2.9 percentage points, translating into 415,355 missing jobs.

The employment rate for women has fallen by a bit less, by 1.5 percentage points from 60.3% to 58.8%, or 220,723 missing jobs.

The employment rate has actually risen over this period for persons aged 55 and over, especially for those aged 60 to 65. The increase in the proportion of older persons in the population since 2008 accounts for part of the overall decline in the employment rate.

However, the employment rate has fallen significantly, from 64.3% to 60.1% for young people aged 15-24 and from 83.3% to 81.5% for so-called "core age" workers aged 25 to 54.

It can be calculated that in June 2014 there were 185,795 missing jobs for young workers, and 264,564 missing jobs for workers aged 25 to 54.

The provinces with the most missing jobs were Ontario (272,064), British Columbia (148,287) and, surprisingly, Alberta (95,082) followed closely by Quebec (94,388). Alberta's employment rate in June 2014 was the highest in the country at 70.7%, but was still 2.9 percentage points down from 73.6% in June 2008.

Saskatchewan is the only province to have experienced an increase in its employment rate since the recession.

For all of the talk of one million net new jobs, Canada's job market is still weak – total employment today is well below what it would be if the employment rate had not fallen.

Photo: kanu101. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.