Can the Partial Jobs Recovery Stay on Track?

Tomorrow, Statistics Canada will release the labour force survey numbers for March. This may raise the low profile of the jobs issue in the election campaign.

A single month’s release will signal if the job market is improving or deteriorating, though it is wise to bear in mind that the underlying trends are more important.

Today, by way of background, the Canadian Labour Congress released the fifth issue of our Recession Watch bulletin (prepared by my colleague Sylvain Schetagne.)

It highlights just how much slack there still was in the job market in February, 2010 compared to before the recession.  Despite the rise in jobs since the bottom was reached in the Summer of 2009.  the national unemployment rate was still 7.8%, and 14.3% for youth.  On top of those who are unemployed, there has been a big jump in the number of  people working part-time only because they cannot find full-time jobs. Last month, due to the disproportionate  rise of temporary and part-time work in the recovery, just 73.3% of all employees had permanent full-time jobs, down from 75.1% before the recession.

Strikingly, three in four (74%) of the jobs created in the recovery since July, 2009 have been in just three industries – construction, professional services, and health care and social assistance. The first two were supported by the now expired infrastructure investment program as well as very low mortgage interest rates.  Health and social services are funded by governments.

It is very much open to question if construction and broader public services employment will continue to grow as the federal and many provincial governments shift their focus from stimulus towards fiscal restraint.  The very high dollar remains a huge drag on exports, and corporations are sitting on liquid assets rather than significantly ramping up real investment.

The CCPAs alternative federal budget set out a major program of job-creating public investments in infrastucture, the environment and public services, and showed how these would create jobs and, at the same time, reduce the deficit by promoting a stronger recovery.

While there is a debate over the Conservative argument that corporate tax cuts promote investment and jobs, I hear little debate between the parties over the supposed imperative to balance the federal budget  quickly by keeping a tight lid on public spending. Tomorrow’s numbers will likely show that there is no room for complacency over the state of the job market.






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