Jobs data flawed, inadequate, Don Drummond says

Data about Canada's true employment picture is inadequate and flawed and leads to bad policy decisions, respected economist Don Drummond says.

Economist says federal Temporary Foreign Worker program based on no clear data

Don Drummond says the data policymakers use to make employment policy is incomplete. (Jovan Matic/CP)

Data about Canada's true employment picture is inadequate and flawed and leads to bad policy decisions, respected economist Don Drummond says.

In an interview with The Lang & O'Leary Exchange on Wednesday, Drummond says Canadian policymakers rely on inadequate data that doesn't include information on things like local wages, employment outcomes of graduates, job numbers on individual occupations or regional shortages.

That confusion leads to poor policy based on an inaccurate picture of what's happening in employment in the real world, he says.

The government has repeatedly claimed that key skills gaps are a major lag on Canada's economy, and has implemented policies such as the Temporary Foreign Workers program and the Canada Job Grant to address specific employment needs.

The reality is we don't currently have the data to be making informed policies, Drummond said.

"The major examples of policy changes are not necessarily informed by the information," he told Amanda Lang.

The biggest problem is that Canada still lacks a single, national body in charge of overseeing and increasing the amount and quality of employment data in Canada, Drummond says.

Statistics Canada logs the official employment rate (which reports that Canada added 26,000 jobs last month) but movements to beef up Statistics Canada's weapons in tracking data, or to create another government agency solely tasked with jobs data, have fallen short due to lack of political will and budget cutbacks.

In the Commons today, opposition MPs criticized the government for slashing funding on labour information gathering by 20 per cent, saying it shows the government's is not interested in reliable data to guide its Temporary Foreign Workers program.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney told the Commons that the government will be launching two new labour market information studies at a cost of $14 million of additional funding — a quarterly study on job vacancies and an annual survey on wage rates.

Statistics Canada has created a jobs vacancy survey, Drummond notes in his report.

"Yet its accuracy is challenged in light of the suggestion in the last two federal budgets of an aggregate job vacancy rate roughly three times that estimated by Statistics Canada," he said.

Drummond senses a perplexing lack of government desire to move on the file. "I'm no politician but my sense is you're not going to get in trouble by making efforts to help people get a job," he said.

Drummond also says we are doing a poor job of disseminating what information we do have on employment to the public in an effective manner. He recommends beefing up and publicizing Jobs Bank, the government's website of job listings, which currently lists more than 112,000 open jobs across the country but many Canadians may never have heard of.

"The job vacancy survey should be enhanced to provide local information with greater granularity on occupations, and questions should be added to improve the survey's usefulness as a policy tool," Drummond's report says.


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