10 July 2010

Labour force trending

Friday’s labour force data from Statistics Canada got a fair bit of news time, largely for the reported drop in employment in Newfoundland and Labrador of 8,100.

It’s hot on the heels of an equally large jump in employment the month before.

Month to month fluctuations don’t necessarily mean very much of anything.  And in fact if you look at the last couple of months compared to say figures dating back to march 2007, you can easily see that the big rise and big fall in employment could just be an anomaly.

labour force 07-10 The current estimated number of employed people is around 218,000 which is roughly where the employed chunk of the labour force peaked a couple of times going back to early 2007.  It only went over that – peaking out at 226,000 or thereabouts for a few months in early 2008.

What’s more noticeable when you look at these long term figures is that while the number of employed people is up again, the total labour force is the highest it has been in the past three years.  Whether these people have been living here and have returned to the labour force or whether they’ve shifted here from somewhere else, there are more people available for work.

Rough appraisal:  The economy has struggled to regain lost ground during the recession.  At the same time, the available labour force has grown hence the unemployment rate remains high.

Take a look at a couple of other numbers in the Statistics Canada survey to see some other points of interest.

First, the estimated population – that is those 15 years of age and over  - remains pretty steady at a little over 430,000. 

Second, of those, only 59% participate in the labour force.  That’s the lowest rate in the country.

Third, the employment rate – that is, the percentage of employed people as a part of the labour force  - is one of the lowest in the country.  Other provinces beat that by a good 10 points.

Now if you look at the provincial government’s own figures for May (likely to soon disappear in favour of a more recent update), you’ll see that they use higher numbers in their estimates.  The overall trending is likely the same.

One important thing to notice from the provincial government’s assessment is where the job growth came in May.  Growth came in health and social services, accommodations and trade.  The drops came in manufacturing, information, culture and recreation and in business.

- srbp -

Revised to correct typos and improve readability.