Changes to jobless data due to government short-changing Statcan: NDP

OTTAWA – The New Democrats are seizing on Wednesday’s revision of Statistics Canada’s labour force numbers for 2014 as further evidence of the damage done by federal cuts to the national numbers agency.

Statcan lowered the number of jobs gained last year and also increased the jobless rate for December as part of what it described as a routine update resulting from a change in the census data used to calculate the figures.

It said the unemployment rate for December 2014 was 6.7 per cent, compared with its initial estimate of 6.6 per cent, and the estimated number of jobs gained last year was 121,300, down from 185,700 estimated earlier this month.

The agency has been starved of resources, said New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen, who cited the 2010 decision to cancel the detailed, mandatory long-form census as the source of the problem.

The decision has deprived Statistics Canada “of the basic resources it needs to do its job to provide incredibly valuable information to Canadians and Canadian business,” Cullen said.

“It weakens our ability to understand what’s happening in our economy.”

Finance Minister Joe Oliver insisted Wednesday the revisions are not significant, in the grand scheme of things.

“There’s some statistical revision and the point is we’ve still created almost 1.2 million net new jobs,” Oliver said, insisting that the changes won’t affect the government’s plan to deliver a balanced budget.

“Individual months vary, I’ve said that constantly. The trend is positive.”

The Statistics Canada revisions follow a surprise move by the Bank of Canada to cut its key interest rate last week because of the drop in oil prices and the potential consequences for the economy.

CIBC noted the Bank of Canada’s decision to cut rates last week may now look slightly less surprising.

“We thought that a 15,000 per month pace in employment growth wasn’t great, though respectable, but the now reported 10,000 per month pace clearly shows that the labour market failed to make significant headway last year,” CIBC economist Nick Exarhos wrote in a note to clients.

“The Bank of Canada is more concerned about the path of oil prices, and their impact on investment and hiring going forward, but today’s revisions suggest that the economy might not have been on quite as firm ground as earlier believed.”

As part of the revisions, Statistics Canada said the number of full-time jobs gained last year totalled 158,300 compared with its earlier reading of a 190,300.

The number of part-time jobs lost in 2014 was revised to 37,000 compared with the initial estimate of a loss of 4,500 for the year.