Friday, December 10, 2010

Grim picture behind cheery jobs news release

You expect a bit of spin in government news releases, but the one on the latest employment numbers left me dizzy.
It read more like party advertising. And that's wrong when the government is apparently ignoring a real problem.
"More people working in B.C. than ever before," said the headline. Employment was at a record level in November, topping the previous mark set in July 2008, before the recession.
True, and good news. But not anywhere near to a complete picture. In November, StatsCan reported 2,326,000 people were working, 2,000 more than in 2008.
But in July 2008 1,874,000 of those working had full-time jobs; the rest were part-time.
Last month, there were 84,000 fewer full-time jobs than before the recession - the ones that matter to people trying to make a life. The gains were entirely in part-time work.
And while there were more jobs overall, there were also more people living in the province and more people looking for work.
In 2008, 108,000 British Columbians were trying, unsuccessfully, to find a job.
Today, 173,000 people are seeking work. The unemployment rate has climbed from 4.4 per cent to 6.9 per cent.
The factors involved reach far beyond this province.
But B.C. has lagged the rest of the country in returning to pre-recession stability.
Nationally, full-time employment is basically at July 2008 levels. In B.C., it's down 4.5 per cent.
The number of unemployed people looking for jobs has increased by 29 per cent nationally and by 60 per cent in this province.
One result has been a steep increase in the number of people relying on income assistance - from 39,405 in July 2008 to 56,000 in October of this year. (That's not including disability income assistance.)
Those people are dirt poor. A single-parent family of three gets $623 a month, plus up to $700 for rent. (If they're crashing with family, they don't get the $700.)
All this is grim for the people out of work or on welfare. But it's also bad for communities. People with decent jobs shop and go to restaurants and fix up their homes. Businesses benefit.
A press release celebrating record employment doesn't reflect economic reality, without at least a paragraph noting the challenges in finding full-time work. It could leave people convinced they are failures, rather than casualties of an economic.
There are other issues in all this. The economy might recover after a recession and people might find work. But many of the new jobs will be lower paying, less secure and without pension plans or other benefits.
StatsCan released a report earlier this year that tracked people who had been laid off. Between 2002 and 2006, almost half returned to work at lower wages, while one-quarter made wage gains in their new jobs.
That's not surprising. Across B.C., more than 10,000 forest-sector jobs have disappeared since 2000, many in the last few years. Some of those people - trades workers, for example - might have found comparable work. But a lot of people left $60,000 a year jobs with good benefits and found $40,000 a year work with no pension or benefit plan.
Governments might not be able to stop global market trends. (Though it is astonishing how incoherent and ineffective B.C.'s forest policy has been over the last 15 years.)
But they should acknowledge the shift and say what they plan to do to ensure the best outcome for citizens. (It's not enough to issue press releases about wood sales to China. That's welcome, but not a coherent plan to address the problems in the job market.)
If fewer people have pension plans, for example, where is the new plan Premier Gordon Campbell promised more than two years ago as art of his 10-point action plan to deal with the recession? If more people are relying on part-time work, where is the overdue increase in the minimum wage to help them?
People's lives are shifting. They deserve more than a cheery press release from the government.
Footnote: The leadership campaigns - for both parties - provide a chance to at least try to get answers from candidates about what they would do to address the major economic shifts that see many British Columbians worse off and some in desperate circumstances.


Anonymous said...

(It's not enough to issue press releases about wood sales to China). After seeing the release you're talking about, I couldn't help but think about the schools & other facilities WE are building in China in an attempt to show how great our wood is. Of course China will take all the free stuff it can, but when it comes to business, they have closer allies who have plenty of wood. No doubt we should explore overseas opportunities, however I don't believe we are getting the REAL numbers on wood export.

Guy in Victoria

kootcoot said...

"But B.C. has lagged the rest of the country in returning to pre-recession stability."

I hate to break it to you but we are right now in "pre-recession" time - or maybe pre-Really Great Depression. With all the various stimuli programs now being turfed to try early thirties Hoover style austerity world wide, the real depression is still just warming (or is that cooling?) up!

Europe is going in the tank, country by country. The US is in the tank and sinking deeper and with the TeaBaggers coming into power in 2011, will just sink that much faster. Even China will feel the pain, once Americans and then Canadian's can't buy their crap anymore.

Of course more war than we have on simmer right now is always a good bet. Capitalism's option of last resort almost always - that is why capitalism (or socialism for the corporate elite) is so charming.

Anonymous said...

Playing the Stat’s Cab job stats game is like being on a stair master. They go up they go down they go up they go down….boring……..

Anonymous said...

My next door neighbour works three days a week for a property manager, then cleans a couple of apartment pools on Fridays, and has a weekend paper route. His wife does some gardening on the side when her health, the weather, and the pleasure of her clients are all aligned. They have a daughter, and they have a mortagage on their modest condomium that they thank God every day they were able to purchase 15 years ago when the government of the day - yes, the NDP - helped to make that a reality and not the Impossible Dream it is for so many British Columbian survivors of "The Golden Decade".
Colin Hansen counts that as five jobs for the patriarch, and one for the wife. The daughter sometimes helps out with the paper route, so that gives him Seven, count 'em, jobs! He is so PLEEEEASED with that statistic that he's bragging to you about it. Funny how "the rest of the story", which Paul has astutely alluded to, puts the lie to Hansen's latest, much like so many of his previous, utterances.

I'm thinking the NDP looks more and more like a "credible alternative" every time Hansen opens his mouth to discharge more propaganda and misinformation.

Raymond Graham

DPL said...

Watching the news and seeing the great efforts put out by many to help the folks that need something to eat and watching folks at Our Place getting a meal hurts, especially when you see all the little kids in the crowd, makes the BS being spread about good times
ahead look so hollow. It isn't getting better and the provincial debt keeps getting higher.

e.a.f. said...

Well if there are so many more people working, as per the lieberal, why are so many more people lining up at the food banks and why are so many of those having to go to the food banks working?
gee maybe the lieberals could explain all of that.
I don't think I believe old Hansen.

Crankypants said...

Wasn't it just a short time ago that the budget update brought forth by Hansen showed that income tax revenue was down by more than $100 million? More jobs, less income tax revenue kind of says it all to me.

I agree with Kootcoot. The recession is far from over.