Ottawa needs better labour market data strategy: Drummond

Lack of information clouds economic picture
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 06/12/2014

The federal government should boost its lukewarm efforts to gather labour market information, according to a report from TD Bank’s chief economist, Don Drummond.

Released by the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) on June 11, Drummond’s report indicated Ottawa has not gone far enough to improve the methods for gathering labour market data — a factor integral to a healthy and thriving economy.

In it, he argued much of the confusion clouding the current state of Canada’s labour market reflects the longstanding inadequacies of the labour market data.

As such, employers have been left scratching their heads.

“Confusion over the actual labour market conditions continues in good part because no entity has stepped forward to take charge of labour market information,” Drummond explained, adding that, “Serious assertions are being made about labour shortages, employers not investing enough in training and people unable to find work that fits their skill set.”

While Statistics Canada has beefed up its labour surveys — such as introducing the job vacancy survey — there is a lack of detailed and topical data on local and occupational market trends, employment outcomes of graduates and an overall snapshot of job losses and employment prospects.

Drummond’s report comes on the heels of much flak aimed at the federal government’s handling of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the way in which it gathers labour market information.

Amidst backlash, employment minister Jason Kenney recently announced the launch of a new quarterly study on job vacancies and an annual survey on wages.

To get a better picture of the current state of labour, Ottawa needs to step up, Drummond argued. That includes expanding Statistics Canada’s mandate or establishing a separate agency dedicated to gathering labour market information and improving the job vacancy survey to provide local information on occupations. As well, bolstering the Forum of Labour Market Ministers (comprised of provincial, territorial and federal labour ministers) would strengthen data-gathering efforts.

“With relatively modest effort, Canada could have one of the best labour market information systems in the world, and as a result, a better functioning labour market,” Drummond went on to say. “This would lower unemployment and raise people’s incomes and well-being.”

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