Canada's jobs numbers are worse than you think

Updated March 7.

Every month, Statistics Canada releases the country's headline unemployment numbers that tell an incomplete picture. 

On Friday, even that partial picture looked bad: Canada's job market "continues to sputter," shedding 7,000 workers overall in February. 

There were 20,000 fewer men aged 25 to 54 working in February, while employment was virtually unchanged for the other demographic groups, leaving the topline unemployment rate unchanged at 7%, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

But the situation is actually worse than the headline numbers show. That's the main finding of a newreport.

Angella MacEwen, a senior economist at the Canadian Labour Congress, dug deeper into the jobs numbers, and found Canada's job market is in worse shape than these topline stats say.

When Statistics Canada measures underemployment, it only counts the volume of underemployment, "meaning the total hours of underemployment divided by average weekly full-time hours. This avoids measuring the actual number of people affected by this phenomena. The international consensus on reporting time-related underemployment is the count of individuals who fall into this category."

The graph below, on part-time workers who want more hours, "looks at both the volume and the total count of time-related underemployment."

And the following graph, covering 2013, shows Statistics Canada's "official" unemployed rate, also known as "headline unemployment" or R4, doesn't capture a whole swath of people. The broader category, known as R8, includes "discouraged searchers, waiting group, portion of involuntary part-timers."

"Broader measurement of underemployed is needed. If we include all persons with some attachment to the labour force, and all involuntary part-time workers, we see a marked difference in underemployment rates, especially for young workers and women," the report states.

Photo: lendingmemoUsed under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.

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