There are large discrepancies between the numbers employed
according to Statistics Canada, as opposed to the Ottawa Centre for
Research and Innovation (OCRI); more particularly, in some cases the trends
(e.g. layoffs and hirings) indicated by the OCRI numbers give a
wildly over-optimistic picture
As an example, according to Statistics Canada for the information
and communication technology sector there were 72,400 employed at
the peak in May 2000. The nearest comparable OCRI figure, for June
2000, was 73,000. Between May 2000 and July 2002, the Statistics
Canada number dropped to 47,000 – a decrease of 25,400. By contrast,
the OCRI figure for
June 2002 was 72,000, indicating a drop from June 2000 to June 2002
of only 1,000!
Part of the problem here is basic differences between OCRI's surveys as
opposed to Statistics Canada's; that said, it is extremely dangerous
to try painting an optimistic picture by looking at the OCRI numbers alone.
Both sets of numbers have been reported in the local newspapers.
The Carleton University report of June 2 2005, "Steering on Black
Ice," also notes the contradiction between the OCRI numbers and
A drop in numbers employed over a given period does not
necessarily indicate the same increase in numbers out of work and
For instance, a decrease of 1,000 in the number employed may in
fact mean 3,000 layoffs partly compensated by 2,000 hirings. New
jobs created are likely to be in different companies from those that
laid people off, leading to obvious skills mismatch problems for at
least some of the people affected. Some or all of the 2,000 people
hired may be new immigrants to Ottawa (from overseas, or elsewhere
in Canada) or new graduates – who were not amongst the 3,000 people
laid off, or other people out of work who were also not amongst the
3,000 laid off.
The total "official" labour force for the whole of
Ottawa-Gatineau is only about 600,000, out of a total population of
about 1.1 million. Confusion over the numbers of jobs needed to
employ those out of work is obviously not acceptable, partly because
of what it means for the tax base.
You can only track properly what happens to people laid off, and
count the number actually needing jobs, if you know who they are –
for instance, through their SIN numbers. Nobody is doing this.
The "official" unemployment numbers given out monthly by
Statistics Canada are useless because "Ottawa's Hidden Workforce" of
1998 showed that most unemployed people are hidden within the group
classified as "Not in the Labour Force." The number of "official
unemployed" averaged 38,800 for 1997, out of an official "labour
force" of 442,500. After Bob Chiarelli (now Mayor Bob Chiarelli) saw
the report, on Oct. 3 1998 he challenged local business to create
145,000 new jobs – almost four times what the number of "official
unemployed" would suggest!
No wonder we now see somewhere between 300 and 5,000 people
applying for every job open.
And no wonder foreign-trained professionals have trouble. How can
they and everyone else out of work get jobs, when the numbers of
jobs needed is constantly under-reported by a factor of four?
Robert T. Chisholm
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