Monday, December 10, 2012

Spinning the Job Numbers: Creating Something out of Nothing

No other way to say it: The BC Government is fudging its job creation record 
- December 8th, 2012.
  • While Clark campaigns to be number one on job creation, BC is actually the worst in the West and 4th worst in Canada
  • BC government is making false claims about the performance of the BC Jobs Plan
The headline news from Statistics Canada Friday morning was not good for the government of Premier Christy Clark. In it’s monthly jobs report, Statscan reported an unexpected and surprising jobs boom in Ontario and Quebec but the worst performing province in November compared to October was B.C. Statscan reported 4,700 jobs were lost in B.C. in the month and the unemployment rate rose to 6.8% from 6.7%.

Clark’s government, having staked a good chunk of her political fortunes on the BC Jobs Plan she announced on Sept. 22, 2011, now gets cheered or jeered once a month when Statscan publishes the scorecard on how Clark’s Jobs Plan is doing.

Perhaps in anticipation of a few jeers, the BC government was out early with a press release trying to spin some silver linings into what was otherwise a rather dark cloud. The press release announced that “B.C.’s investment in job creation provides stability” and seemed to rather hope that you wouldn’t look under the hood or examine any of the facts too closely.

The press release notes, for example, that if you look at the year-over-year job numbers for B.C., things don’t look that bad. B.C. job creation record is fourth overall! Just one problem with settling for fourth: The premier quite loudly promised to be number one. That’s what I heard when Clark spoke to the B.C. Liberal convention at the end of October and it’s what The Vancouver Sun’s Jonathan Fowlie (and many other B.C. reporters there) zeroed in on as the key takeaway from the speech:
“We have set out these bold goals and we are reaching our targets,” she continued, adding that while she will to announce additions to the plan in the weeks to come, it will form the bedrock of her party’s campaign.
“I’m going to run in the next election on the strong economy. I’m going to run on (being) number one in job creation,” she said.
And yet, the press release issued by Clark’s government concedes:

With 29,400 job gains since November 2011, B.C. ranks fourth compared to other province.

If you measure the year-over-year performance on a relative basis — the percentage change in the number of employed people — B.C. is doing much worse than fourth. It’s actually sixth or, to put it another way, fourth worst. B.C. has year-over-year employment improvement of 1.29 per cent, just ahead of Ontario’s 1.27 per cent improvement but behind Newfoundland (+3.79%), Saskatchewan (3.07%), Quebec (+2.78%), Alberta (1.82%) and Manitoba (1.36%). In fact, as the astute reader will have already noticed, B.C.’s employment growth over the last year is the worst among the Western provinces. Now fourth best in absolute terms versus sixth best in relative terms is the kind of spin you’d expect in a press released.

What you don’t expect, down there at the bottom of the press release, is a line which can only be described as a falsehood:

Since the release of ‘Canada Starts Here: the BC Jobs Plan’, B.C. has added 41,800 net new jobs …

In November, 2012, Statistics Canada reports there are 2.3127 million British Columbians who had a job.  Subtract the number of jobs in September 2011 from the number recorded in November 2012 and you have 13,900 more net new jobs no 41,800 net new jobs.

In fact, since the Premier announced her “BC Jobs Plan” 14 months ago and announced she was going run on being number one in job creation just over a month ago, the record on job creation is rather pedestrian. Comparing September 2011 to November 2012:
  • While B.C.’s population has grown by 1.1 per cent over the last 14 months,  net new job growth is about half that or 0.6 per cent.
  • Though B.C. workforce is now bigger in absolute terms (+14,500) , it is smaller in the arguably more important relative way, namely the ratio of those British Columbians in the work force (you add up the number of employed, partly employed and those who say they’re unemployed) to those not in the work force (Students, retirees, the independently wealthy and so on).  This is the labour force participation rate and it sits now at 64.8 per cent. It was 65.1 per cent when the Jobs Plan was announced.
  • The unemployment rate when the Jobs Plan was announced was 6.8 per cent. The unemployment rate 14 months later is 6.8 per cent.

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