Time for government to act on underperforming job stats

July’s employment statistics showed a dramatic drop with 31,000 jobs lost since June, amounting to the biggest single monthly decline in five years.  This is a sharp contrast to predictions that Canada would create 10,000 jobs in the same month. While we are all too aware of the difficulties facing Canada’s resource sectors, specifically oil related jobs, this number comes as a shock since most of that damage had already been done.  What is happening now is a contraction outside of the resource sectors and amidst one section of our population that is already reeling from underemployment, our youth. 

What’s worrisome about this is the way the government is not focussed on job losses.  The lack of official response leads observers to believe there isn’t a substantive plan to address this.  It is possible the discouraging numbers even caught the government by surprise, but there are things they could be doing.  In some cases these are items they have committed to doing in last year’s election, but we are still waiting for action on.

One area of concern is the tepid pace for infrastructure spending.  Recent reports indicated that stimulus spending is crawling out the door at the slowest rate in five years.  This was not what Canadians expected when the government was elected on a promise to boost spending for this critical economic stimulus tool.  That said, stimulus is not the only option available, there is much that can be done with employment insurance to help break the economy out of these mid-summer doldrums.

In the wake of a dramatic drop in employment numbers in July, New Democrats are calling on the Liberals to take action to significantly improve access to EI and stimulate job growth.  They had already promised to improve access to EI for Canadians, but it is still not there for so many who have paid into it and now need benefit. In light of these significant job losses, creating a universal qualifying threshold of 360 hours and re-instating the extra five weeks program for all seasonal workers is more critical than ever.

 As mentioned, numbers from Statistics Canada show a sharp decline in part-time jobs amongst youth aged 15 to 24, but where is the youth employment strategy we were promised.  In the election we heard about providing employers with a break on EI premiums if they give permeant jobs to young people, but nothing made it into Budget 2016. This is hurting young Canadians just as they are trying to get a foothold in the job market.  Strapped with mounting student debt and facing  tough job prospects with no government assistance is probably not the outcome that record numbers of young voters expected.

Add to that an abandoned commitment to lower the small business tax rate and it becomes clear that creating jobs is not the priority it should be for a government facing such a difficult economy.  Maintaining the higher tax rate will reportedly cost small businesses $2.2 billion over the next four years. 

Given the struggles faced by so many Canadian families, the Liberals should immediately move to encourage job creation through infrastructure spending, reformed and improved EI, and by giving small businesses the tax break they were promised.