If, like many observers, you’re confused about the direction of Canada’s job market, the latest numbers from StatsCan aren’t going to be particularly helpful.
StatsCan’s survey of payroll, employment and hours, released Friday, found that Canada added 60,300 jobs in July, a very strong increase in job numbers that was led — once again — by an apparent spike in construction employment. (That in itself might be bad news.)
But the more closely-watched labour force survey for July, released some six weeks ago, reported a loss of 39,400 jobs for the month.
So what’s going on? One thing to keep in mind is that both surveys are just that — surveys.
“As a result of conceptual and methodological differences, estimates of changes from [the payroll survey] and [the labour force survey] do differ from time to time,” StatsCan notes in a disclaimer. “However, the trends in the data are quite similar.”
Not this time. The gap between the two surveys for July amounts to a difference of nearly 100,000 jobs.
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The labour force survey — the one that comes out earlier, and is therefore the one everybody pays attention to — polls 55,000 households to see who has work and who’s looking for work.
StatsCan says this survey has a margin of error of 53,400 jobs, 19 times out of 20. Which means that one in 20 job reports aren’t even within that very broad range.
The most recent labour force survey, released earlier this month, had some economists questioning the numbers. That report, for August, showed Canada creating nearly 60,000 jobs, but of those, 54,500 were reportedly created in Toronto.
Economist Will Dunning, who first pointed out the questionable data, described the results as impossible.
“If that was correct, it would be equivalent to 19 per cent per year. Employment just does not grow that quickly,” he told HuffPost.
Many economists say the other jobs report — the payroll and employment survey that comes out nearly two months after the headline numbers — is the more reliable one.
That survey polls 15,000 businesses on hiring and pay levels, but also relies on hard data from the Canada Revenue Agency.
If the payroll report is indeed the more reliable one, then July’s job numbers were considerably better than the headlines suggested.
“Given the more reliable sample and reduced volatility in the [payroll report], odds are that July was indeed a robust month for hiring,” CIBC World Market economist Emanuella Enenajor wrote in a client note.