By: Tyler Sommers on
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister and Conservative MP for Calgary Southwest, in a speech on May 15, 2015
All previous periods of employment were not 1.2 million jobs beneath today’s count. The difference in jobs from just before the latest recession to when this claim was made is almost 800,000 jobs.FactsCan Score: False
Last month, Stephen Harper spoke about his government’s record on job creation. He said, “since the depths of the recession, the Canadian economy has added 1.2 million net new jobs. 1.2 million more Canadians working now than ever before.”
FactsCan already checked the first part of this claim, that 1.2 million jobs were added “since the depths of the recession.” Gary Goodyear, a Conservative MP, made an almost identical claim, and we found it true. But we noted that the truth of the 1.2 million count hinges on the time frame: Since the depths of the recession, or June 2009.
This check will therefore focus on Harper’s statement that there are 1.2 million more Canadians working now “than ever before.”
The short answer is that today’s job count is not 1.2 million positions higher than any period in Canada’s history. Statistics Canada data show there has been a net growth of 794,300 jobs since October 2008, just before the recession began.
The message that the number of working Canadians is on the rise is certainly true. But, it’s worth noting, as we did in the Goodyear check, that job creation is a tricky thing for government to take credit for. There is data on the number of people employed by month, going back to 1976. This data (see graph below) show that there has been an overall upward trend in the number of people employed in Canada. Regardless of the causes, it seems either governments are doing something very similar, or the influence of governments on this trend is negligible.
Source: Data from Statistics Canada.
Of course, that’s not a full picture. Overall job numbers as a meaningful indicator of employment health is questionable, which is why we generally hear reference to employment/unemployment rates, or the percentage of people in the workforce who are employed.* If a government wanted to claim success on the employment file, it would be more honest to examine these rates and to compare them over time.
Helpfully, Statistics Canada also tracks (PDF) the yearly unemployment rate, shown in the graph below. We can see the lowest level of unemployment was 6 per cent in 2007, just under the 6.1 per cent level for 2008, the year that ended in recession.
Source: Data from Statistics Canada (PDF).
The data show that despite a history of ups and downs since 1976, unemployment has actually settled in the same place. In 1976 the percentage of people unemployed was 7.1 per cent and in 2014 it was 6.9 per cent.
There are not 1.2 million more Canadians working now than ever before – that number only applies to the lowest period of employment during the recession. Harper’s claim is false. Furthermore, if the government wanted to make a claim about creating jobs, the employment rate is likely a better statistic to quote. And even then the influence of government may be minimal.
* There is debate on the accuracy of these rates, but because a consistent approach has been used by Statistics Canada, they are well-suited for showing trends over time.