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New Stats Can report finds Manitoba job gains not as high as thought

It turns out Manitoba didn’t do so well on the job-creation front last month, according to revised Statistics Canada data released today.

The agency’s new July labour force report data shows Manitoba had a net gain of 1,700 jobs from June to July, not the 5,200 reported last week.

And it was a similar story with the July-to-July numbers — a net gain of 500 jobs, not the 4,000 initially reported.

As a result, the provincial unemployment rate dipped to 5.3 per cent from 5.4 per cent in June, not to 5.1 per cent as last week’s report stated.

Nationally, the once-stellar reputation of Statistics Canada took a huge hit Friday with the release of a correction to one of its flagship reports.

The national statistical agency wrongly reported a week ago that the economy gained a paltry 200 jobs in July — raising the eyebrows of economists who thought the number would be closer to 20,000.

But it turns out that figure was way off the mark. The revised July jobs report shows a net gain of 42,000 jobs.

Statistics Canada blamed the botched numbers on an overhaul of its market-moving Labour Force Survey, an exercise it undertakes every 10 years.

One of the programs wasn’t updated during the redesign — a mistake the agency chalks up to human error — resulting in the number of full-time job losses being overstated.

The corrected figures show there were 18,000 full-time jobs lost in July, a far cry from the 60,000 losses reported last week. Statistics Canada says the error resulted from not counting some people as part of the labour force.

The number of part-time gains remains unchanged at about 60,000.

The mistake did not change Canada’s unemployment rate, which stayed at seven per cent in July, down a tenth of a point from the previous month.

Economists didn’t come down too hard on Statistics Canada for the error.

"It’s obviously an embarrassment to have an error of this scale in such an important series, but better to have admitted the mistake and fixed it and put processes in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again than to try to have buried it under a rug somewhere," said CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld.

The bungled July jobs report had real consequences for people making new employment insurance claims. Ottawa put a hold on all new claims until Statistics Canada fixed the mistake.

That’s because the monthly jobs report is used to determine regional unemployment rates, which directly impact the number of weeks an unemployed person needs to have worked in order to qualify for EI benefits.

Statistics Canada put on a brave face Friday, insisting it remains confident in the quality of its data.

"I am fully confident in the integrity of the Labour Force Survey program," chief statistician Wayne Smith said in a statement.

"This was an isolated incident. Statistics Canada does and will continue to publish high-quality and relevant statistical information on all aspects of the Canadian economy and society."

The agency says it has launched an internal review to find out what went wrong and why no one noticed the mistake.

But some economists still have concerns about what they perceive to be a great degree of volatility from one month’s job numbers to the next.

There are economists who prefer to look at averages over three, six and 12 months rather than at the latest monthly job numbers.

"The huge upward revision is welcome news (though it doesn’t help StatsCan’s reputation) but Canada’s underlying employment situation remains soft, with job growth of just 0.9 per cent over the past year," BMO Capital Markets senior economist Benjamin Reitzes noted in a report.

"Perhaps July’s figure is a sign of better job gains ahead, or maybe it’s just a statistical quirk in a volatile survey."

The corrected jobs report had a few other changes from the one released last week, such as:

❚ The participation rate in July was 66.1 per cent, not 65.9 per cent;

❚ The employment rate was 61.4 per cent, not 61.3 per cent;

❚ More people between the ages of 15 to 24, and 25 and 54, had jobs.

Provincially, the corrected July numbers mostly affect Ontario and, to a lesser extent, Quebec. Ontario’s job gain rose to 39,500 from 15,100, while the correction turned a 13,400-job loss in Quebec into a 1,900 job gain.

Employment actually fell in Nova Scotia, even though a week ago the province’s job numbers were reported to be mostly unchanged.

— Canadian Press/staff

 

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