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The Progressive Economics Forum: Ten Things to Know About Homelessness in Canada

This afternoon I gave a presentation at Raising the Roof’s Child & Family Homelessness Stakeholder Summit in Toronto. My slide deck can be downloaded here. To accompany the presentation, I’ve prepared the following list of “Ten Things to Know About Homelessness in Canada.”

1.Efforts to enumerate persons experiencing homeless have generally been spotty, but it is reasonable to assert that homelessness in Canada saw substantial growth in the 1980s and 1990s. On a nightly basis in Toronto, there were about 1,000 persons per night staying in emergency shelters in 1980. By 1990, that figure had doubled. And (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Dix Choses à Savoir sur l’Itinérance au Canada

Cet après-midi, j’ai fait une présentation au Child & Family Homelessness Stakeholder Summit, organisé par Chez Toit, à Toronto. Ma presentation, illustrée de diapositives, peut être téléchargée ici. Pour accompagner la présentation, je vous ai préparé la liste suivante des « Dix choses à savoir sur l’itinérance au Canada. »

1. Les tentatives de dénombrer les personnes en situation d’itinérance ont généralement été intermittentes, mais il est raisonnable d’affirmer que l’itinérance au Canada a connu une croissance importante entre 1980 et 2000. Sur une base quotidienne à Toronto, il y avait environ 1,000 personnes par nuit séjournant dans (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Canada: World’s Next Superpower? Only If We Stop Relying On Temporary Foreign Workers

It’s only been a couple of weeks since Disney, that most iconic of American companies, moved to displace all its home grown techies with low-cost foreign temporary workers, But the company had to beat a hasty retreat in the face of an outpouring of criticism.

Amid the deluge of commentary this story triggered about where America is headed, blogger and finance professor Noah Smith turned his eyes north and gave Canada a mighty shout-out in a column for Bloomberg, Canada: Tomorrow’s Superpower.

Professor Smith rightly pointed out that, among the attributes that will make any nation great in future, immigration (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: The Myth of STEM Degrees: STEM as the Canary in the Coal Mine

What follow is a guest blog post from Glenn Burley:

If Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and professional fields like medicine, law, and dentistry are the so-called golden ticket to a good job in today’s labour market, what does that say about the current and future health of our economy?

The myth of the ‘skills gap’ in Canada is persistent. Along with increasing levels of student debt and a labour market in which good jobs are increasingly hard to find—especially for young people—this myth leads public discussion on employment to blaming individuals for their education choices. According to (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: ROCHON on the IMF and labour market deregulations


See original CBC column here.

Recent — and potentially watershed — International Monetary Fund (IMF) documents have cast doubt on the merits of labour market deregulation of the last three decades, with important consequences for Canada. But will anyone listen?

The last 30 years have not been kind to economic growth and wealth creation.

The economic “successes” of the neo-liberal era, from roughly 1980 to 2007, pale in comparison to the three decades that followed the Second World War with respect to almost every economic variable imaginable.

One of the core arguments of the neo-liberal era, adopted at one time by the (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: The Harper Record on Jobs, 2006 to 2014

Here is the link to a short study I have done for the Broadbent Institute on the Harper Record on Jobs from 2006 to 2014 based on annual averages from the Labour Force Survey.

Coverage in today’s Toronto Star is here.

The basic findings, that there is still a lot of slack in the job market compared to the pre recession period (especially for youth) and that there has been a heavy tilt to part time work (one in three of the new jobs), will come as no surprise to readers of this blog.

What I found a bit more (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Transforming Precarious Work

The Ontario government has launched a review of their Labour Relations Act and Employment Standards Act. The premise is that the workplace has changed, and Ontario labour law no longer does as much as it should to protect vulnerable workers.

The Workers’ Action Centre in Toronto took this opportunity to document the myriad ways that workers are left behind, and make 47 concrete recommendations to improve legislative protections.

What’s unique about this report is that worker’s voices are central. Throughout the report links are made between the lived experiences of workers, current labour market statistics, and thoughtful recommendations to make (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: ROCHON on: A tale of two economies? Making sense of recent US and Canadian labour market data

Louis-Philippe ROCHON

Associate Professor, Laurentian University

Co-Editor, Review of Keynesian Economics

Follow him on Twitter @Lprochon


With data on the performance of Canada’s labour market released today, many economists and pundits on both sides of the 49th parallel are arguing that what seems to be emerging is two very clear and different paths for the US and Canadian economies. But that interpretation is not exactly correct.

Indeed, the US economy seems to be outperforming expectations, according to labour market data released last week, according to which the labour market is showing continued strong signs of life. In February (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Why are women leaving Canada’s workforce?

I started producing an e-weekly earlier this year, Eye on the Economy: making sense of recent economic events, as a more regularly complement to the quarterly Economy at Work I also produce.

Each issue contains a main commentary/analysis piece on a topical issue and also a curated round up with about five shorter briefs. In an age of info overload and never ending tweets, it’s meant to provide a decent summary of relevant economic events.

The main piece from a few weeks ago, on “Why are women leaving Canada’s workforce?” is relevant with international women’s day this weekend. (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: January Job Gain Part-time, Self-employment

As usual, the monthly Labour Force Survey numbers headline seems to tell a different story than the underlying numbers. According to the LFS, Canada added 35,000 jobs in January. A statistically significant number of jobs, hurray!

But wait. Those were all part time jobs. We lost 10,000 full time jobs, and added 47,000 part-time jobs.

Oh, and they were all through self-employment. We lost nearly 6,000 jobs, but 41,000 Canadians entered the labour market through self-employment.

In fact, compared to last January, half of all employment growth was through self-employment, with an increase of over 68,000 self-employed workers. The overwhelming majority (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: ROCHON: Harper in closet over the economy as Canada heads toward another recession

This guest blog post has been written by Louis-Philippe Rochon.

You can follow him on Twitter @Lprochon

Harper’s recent incarnation as an anti-terrorist crusader has caught many Canadians by surprise. Harper is spending considerable political energy beating the drums of war against terrorists, and introducing a far-reaching, and much condemned, bill aimed at restricting free speech, and increasing police powers. But could this move hide a more cynical purpose? Can there be an ulterior motive?

I think there is, and the reason is quite simple. It’s the economy. Seven years after the beginning of the crisis, and 4 years (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Rochon Asks: “Is the Canadian economy unraveling?”

In a recent CBC blog post, Louis-Philippe Rochon assesses the current state of the Canadian economy.

The link to the blog post is here.

Follow him on Twitter @Lprochon.

The Progressive Economics Forum: Banks and Balanced Budgets

The Bank of Canada surprised most analysts this week when it decided to cut rates by 25 basis points. The move comes after the price of oil has tumbled below $50 / barrel, oil producers announced huge cuts to business investment for 2015, Target announced a mass layoff of 17,600 workers in Canada, and the International Monetary Fund warned of a global economic slowdown.

The key message of the January Monetary Policy is that the Canadian economy needs stimulus. The Bank’s view of the Canadian economy stands in sharp contrast to that of the federal government, which is intent on (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Low Oil Prices, Good or Bad for Canada?

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, you’re probably well aware that the price of oil has fallen dramatically, to less than $50 / barrel. What this means for Canada’s economic output & labour markets is not yet clear. But Stephen Poloz at the Bank of Canada has said that he expects the effect to be “not trivial”, and suggested that it might lower the Bank’s GDP expectations by around 0.3 percentage points. Deputy Governor Timothy Lane’s talk on January 13th is good background reading on this topic, and overall he suggested that the effect will be at least somewhat (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Bank of Canada, Exports, and LMI

Much has been made about Stephen Poloz’s decision to abandon ‘forward guidance’ in Bank of Canada rate setting announcements for the time being. Critics bemoan the loss of direction from the Bank. But Poloz’s comments yesterday were chock full of guidance on how the Bank sees Canada’s economic situation.

Having been disappointed by the failure of Canada’s export sector to resume investment or show any signs of life, researchers at the Bank investigated the performance of 2,000 product categories, and found that about 500 of those had very nearly been wiped out following the 2008 – 2009 recession. Further investigation (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Job Numbers Surprise

For the first time in a while, Statistics Canada gives us some good news on the job front. 74,000 net new jobs added in September, certainly nothing to sneeze at. Still, we would need to keep this pace up every month for the next year to close the employment gap left by the last recession.

On the graph below, this month’s huge uptick barely makes a dent. The blue line is how many jobs we have, and the dotted pink line is how many we would have if the employment rate were 63.6%.


This holds true for workers (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Labour market musings

Just a short post ahead of the job numbers that come out from Statistics Canada tomorrow. We still have so much ground to make up. Five years after the end of the last recession, and Canada’s labour market is still just limping along. And it seems to have taken a turn for the worse recently.

While the Conservative government crows about one million net new jobs, they conveniently forget to mention that we would need to add another 880,000 new jobs to the Canadian economy to catch up to our pre-recession employment rate.

On average, that’s about 73,000 jobs per (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Liberal’s EI Plan Rests on Bad Math

Joe Oliver’s recently announced a Small Business Tax Cut, sorry, Job Credit. Economists across the ideological spectrum denounced it as poorly designed.

This opened up an interesting opportunity for a national debate about what we want E.I. to be – coverage right now is at all time lows, and the accumulated deficit from the last recession will soon be repaid in full.

The Liberal Party entered the EI debate by suggesting a one-year EI premium holiday for employers who hire new workers. It’s disappointing that they completely ignored the possibility of expanding access. What’s even worse is that their (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Of Rising Tides and Sinking Boats

Recently, Minister Kenney took to twitter to defend his decision to limit the number of precarious workers entering Alberta through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Again, the minister is to be applauded for his grasp of the situation. His changes do little to fix the actual problem though.

The evidence that he cited was the lack of wage growth among restaurant workers in Alberta. The graph below might not make it clear, but adjusted for inflation, restaurant worker wages in Alberta peaked in 2010, and have fallen since then by over $35 / week. At the same time, the overall (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Should Welfare Recipients Try Harder to Find Work?

This morning the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation released a new report about “motivational interviewing” for welfare recipients. The link to the full report is here, and the link to the executive summary is here.

Authored by Reuben Ford, Jenn Dixon, Shek-wai Hui, Isaac Kwakye and Danielle Patry, the study reports on a recent randomized controlled trial done on long-term recipients of social assistance in British Columbia. The research took place between September 2012 and March 2013. There were a total of 154 research participants; 76 of the individuals were in the “treatment group,” while 78 were in (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Job Numbers

Today Statistics Canada released their first set of job numbers since the ‘oops’ of July 2014. And the news was dismal. The labour market shed 112,000 private sector positions, the largest single month drop in the private sector since, well, forever. Coming on the heels of a mistake is unfortunate, but you have to think that Statistics Canada was extra vigilant this month and checked everything up, down, backwards, and sideways.

Either way, month to month variations are far less meaningful than overall trends, so let’s have a look at those, shall we?

Part-time work

Only workers over 55 have (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Self-Employment Masks Job Loss

Statistics Canada reported today that employers cut the number of employees by 98,000 in August, which was largely masked by 87,000 more Canadians identifying themselves as self-employed. As a result, the headline level of “employment” – which includes self-employment – was little changed.

Self-employment ranges from high-income professionals to people eking out a living doing odd jobs. However, when a large increase in self-employment coincides with a large drop in positions paid by an employer, it begs the question of whether Canadians are becoming self-employed by choice or because jobs are not available. One also wonders how many survey respondents (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Indigenous Workers in Canada

Labour market data in Canada is easily available by sex, age, and region. We spend a great deal of time talking about these factors. More recently Statistics Canada made labour market data available on CANSIM by landed immigrant status, going back to 2006. This factor is less often included in most labour market analysis, and too few know that it is even available.

But if you want to know how racialized workers or Indigenous workers (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples) are doing in the labour force you basically have to rely on the census … oh, wait. And on (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Is Canada becoming a ‘part-time’ nation – the value of LMI

Most of the jobs added to the Canadian labour market in 2014 were part-time – prompting headlines such as “Experts fret Canada becoming a nation of part-time workers“.

Are we really a part-time nation? Well, 80% of workers in Canada are full-time, and a large majority of part-time workers choose to work part-time hours. So, no, we are not at the verge of some part-time workopolypse. But the labour market has been changing, driven partly by demographics (aging) and women entering the labour force.

Between 1976 and 2013, the number of core-age women working part-time jobs more than (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Revised LFS Numbers Don’t Change the Big Picture

What a rough week it’s been over at Statistics Canada. It’s a world-renowned statistical agency — though its lustre has been tarnished in recent years by budget cuts, cancelled data programs and series, and the nonsense of the Harper government’s libertarian crusade against the long form census. The problems this week around its Labour Force Survey report for July will certainly contribute to the sense of entropy surrounding this important and valuable institution.

The biggest change in the numbers is that full-time employment is now estimated to have declined by about 20,000, instead of the original 60,000. (Read more…)