Published 8 June 2012
The President of the Canadian Labour Congress says the federal government should step back from the radical changes it wants to make to the Employment Insurance Program in light of the country’s still-fragile employment situation. The facts, he says, don’t back up the rhetoric government ministers are using to justify their sweeping reforms.
Ken Georgetti made the demand following today’s release by Statistics Canada of its monthly Labour Force Survey. Over the month of May, the economy added just 1,400 full-time jobs and 6,300 part-time jobs; a weaker performance than previous months. While the number of full-time jobs has increased since this time last year, the unemployment rate remains at 7.3% because more than 1.3 million people who wanted to work last month could not find a job.
Despite the federal government’s noises about an urgent shortage of workers, there were 1,378,600 Canadians seeking employment last month. This comes on the heels of an earlier report from Statistics Canada in May showing there were 5.8 unemployed workers for every reported job vacancy in Canada for the three months ending February 2012 (just one month before the EI changes were put forward).
“If we are to believe the Prime Minister when he says that Canada’s economic recovery remains very fragile – and the new data on unemployment suggest we should – then this is the wrong time to bulldoze through with radical changes to a major economic program like EI without consultation, without study, without debate and without regard to the facts. It’s reckless and it’s wrong,” he says.
Georgetti says the changes to EI, buried deep inside the Conservative government’s 452-page budget bill, will do more harm than good to workers in the current jobs market. He also says the changes will result in Canadians being forced to accept the lower wages offered by predatory employers and will surely expose unemployed seasonal workers to exploitation during the off-season.
"The impact these changes promise for workers and employers are significant and merit the full examination that can only come from introducing them as a separate and dedicated piece of legislation," he says.
Quick Analysis from CLC Senior Economist Angella MacEwen
Overall, the Canadian economy added 7,700 jobs in May, mostly in manufacturing and education, with declines in construction. The unemployment rate remains at 7.3%, as an additional 8,000 Canadians entering the job market in May. The number of self-employed workers grew by 23,300 in May, another sign of continued weakness in the labour market.
Only Alberta and New Brunswick added jobs in May 2012.
Year over year job growth continues to be driven entirely by the private sector, but May saw a decline of 22, 500 private sector jobs, offsetting private sector gains in March and April. Since May 2011, Alberta has added 84, 500 jobs, compared to Ontario which only added 33,000 jobs over the same period. Year over year, manufacturing has added 58, 600 jobs, the natural resources sector has added 40,800 jobs, and the educational services sector has added 67,600 jobs.
Heading into the summer job season for students, the unemployment rate for youth aged 15 to 24 remains high at 14.3%, compared to 10.9 per cent at the start of the recession in August 2008. The real unemployment rate, which includes discouraged workers and those waiting for a job to start, is even higher at 22.7% of youth aged 15 to 24. There were 45,800 fewer youth employed in Canada in May 2012 than there were a year earlier.