This question is not as easy to answer as you might think. Employment estimates, and estimates is all that they are, are collected as part of Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey.
Annual numbers are published in March of each year. Monthly estimates are sometimes available on request. The job market numbers are based on a monthly sample of about 300 people in Cornwall and South Stormont.
Statistics Canada asks you if you are employed and, if you say yes, then you are marked as employed. If you are not employed, you are then asked if you are “actively” looking for a job and, if you say yes, then you are classified as unemployed.
What you say is accepted as true. The survey is usually taken in the middle of each month. Typically someone, like you, agrees to be part of the sample for six months and is then replaced by someone else for another six months.
For an entire year, about 3,600 individual surveys are filled out or answered over the phone. In the Statistics Canada survey, you are classified as being unemployed if you are “actively” looking for work. “Actively” looking means that in the past four weeks you have checked ads in papers and the internet, sent out resumes, contacted employers directly, asked friends or family and/or checked with a union and are available for work.
The typical unemployed person uses about two job search techniques in a month. Persons on layoff or who have a new job that starts in four weeks or less are also considered unemployed. And so what do these estimates tell us about what is happening on the job front?
At this time, there is a lot of bad news. We all know that we are in a recession. In recessions, some jobs disappear. Over the first 10 months of this year, about 28,000 people, on average, were employed in Cornwall. This is down by about 1,800 compared to 2008. Most of the decline was in full-time jobs.
The number of unemployed people averaged about 2,500 over the last 10 months, up from 2,300 during the same period in 2008. As might be expected the unemployment rate also rose. During the first 10 months of the year, the unemployment rate averaged 8.1%, up from 7.2% during the same period last year. The “sort of good” news is that it could be worse. We seem to hear that a lot from certain politicians in Ottawa and from the Bank of Canada. Sadly, it is true.
In October, the unemployment rate for Canada as a whole was 8.6% and 9.3% for Ontario as a whole. The US unemployment rate has now risen above 10%. Among the larger cities in Canada, the lowest rate was in Saskatoon at only 4.4%. Times are tough in Cornwall at this instance. But, it has been worse and in time it will, hopefully, get better. Cornwall’s unemployment rate was above 10% during each and every year from 1992 to 1997 with a peak of over 15% in 1993. Canada was in a recession in the early 1990s.
Things were better just a few years ago. The lowest annual unemployment rate over the last two decades happened just recently when the rate declined to 5.8% in 2007. In that year, there were about 30,700 people at paid work in Cornwall, the highest job number ever.
There is another measure of unemployment. This measure counts the actual number of people collecting regular EI (employment insurance) benefits. This measure only includes those who actually qualify for benefits by having put in enough hours before losing their jobs. The latest numbers were released this morning by Statistics Canada.
The latest data is for September and it shows that the number collecting EI in Cornwall is up by 44% from a year ago. The increase was 64% across Canada and 83% across Ontario. Sometimes, we fail to appreciate what we have and think it is always better elsewhere. Many times, this isn’t so. Of course, sometimes it is.
Whether you can get, or can create, a good job is often the key factor in deciding where you want to live. These are the job facts or as factual as an honest economist can get. Now, if you want to get excited about your community, in good and bad times, I suggest you visit Choosecornwall.ca to help you appreciate what Cornwall and the area has to offer and see what some local people are doing to spread the word.
Roger Sauvé is President of People Patterns Consulting . Roger is an economist and demographer and lives in Summerstown.
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