OTTAWA — Canada can no longer brag that it recouped all the jobs lost during the recession. The economy is roughly 30,000 jobs short, according to Statistics Canada.
The data agency revealed Friday it has revised its labour data to reflect 2006 census figures, as opposed to using 2001 population data. The new census data suggest the labour force is not as large as previously assumed.
As a result, “the employment increase from July 2009 to December 2010 based on the new estimates was not as strong as with the old estimates,” Statistics Canada said in a paper discussing the changes.
However, it added the unemployment rate, at 7.6% as of December, remains unchanged.
Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Markets, said the changes are largely “trivial,” other than the politicians losing some bragging rights about the economy’s strength.
“This is not a material change in the direction of the economy,” he said. “There is some symbolism in getting back the very last job, but part of the explanation is that the population hasn’t been growing as quickly so there are not as many people to be employed as earlier assumed.”
Based on the revisions, the agency says 428,000 jobs were lost between October 2008 and July 2009. From July 2009 to last month, the revised data suggest 398,000 net new jobs were created – meaning there is 30,000-job gap.
Previously, Statistics Canada had declared the economy recouped the recession’s job losses by last August, a data point oft repeated by the federal Conservative government in defending its record on the economy.
The data, prior to revisions, had indicated the economy lost 417,000 between October 2008 and July 2009, whereas between July 2009 and last month roughly 463,000 net new jobs had been generated.
Statistics Canada said the new estimates of employment are slightly lower overall due to the lower population estimates. “Despite the slightly lower levels, however, the new (revised) and old (unrevised) employment estimates track closely, following the same trends,” it said.
“You can say Canada hasn’t created as many jobs,” Mr. Shenfeld said, “but we also don’t have as many people to be employed.”
For the provinces, employment levels were revised downward by 1% or more for New Brunswick (-2.4%); British Columbia (-1.9%); Newfoundland and Labrador (-1.8%) and Prince Edward Island (-1.1%). The only upward revision was in Alberta (+0.8%).
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said revisions to Statistics Canada data are “routine,” and estimates for Canadian economic performance have not changed.
“The economy has grown for five straight quarters, and the unemployment rate remains 7.6% as previously reported,” Mr. Flaherty said in a statement. “We know that there are still too many people looking for work. Our government is working on their behalf to create jobs and economic growth across Canada.”
The federal government’s two-year $48-billion stimulus program, aimed at generating economic growth and jobs, will largely come to an end as of March 31, although money will continue to flow for infrastructure projects that started before that date.
Meanwhile, Statistics Canada released other labour-related data on Friday, suggesting average weekly employee earnings rose 4.4% year-over-year in November. Economists at Moody’s Analytics said the result indicates the earnings growth reported is the fastest in more than two years.
“The strong wage growth also supports projections for healthy GDP growth in the fourth quarter, as rising incomes continue to support spending,” said Adam Goldin, economist at Moody’s.
On Monday, Statistics Canada releases GDP data for November, and the market consensus is for a 0.3% month-over-month gain. Fourth-quarter figures will be available on Feb. 28.