Canada’s unions: victory laps premature when it comes to jobs numbers

March 11, 2022

Bruske: Wages rising at less than the cost-of-living while workers in some sectors are being left behind

OTTAWA – Today’s Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey shows that the overly-rosy picture some claim about the economic recovery doesn’t hold up on closer inspection.

Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress points out that the reality facing many Canadian workers is not so positive. Some workers, particularly in lower wage industries, simply haven’t seen the rebound that some professional and higher-wage sectors have experienced. Meanwhile the accommodation and food services sector, which was hurting even before the pandemic, remains 17% behind pre-pandemic employment levels.

“While inflation and rising interest rates squeeze family budgets, wages are simply not keeping up and the jobs recovery we have seen is uneven. Average hourly wages were just 3.1% higher than a year ago, while inflation jumped 5.1%,” said Bruske. “The reality is, hidden in the rosy job numbers are hundreds of thousands of Canadian workers being left behind.”

Bruske also pushed back against the narrative coming from some in the business community about labour shortages when the real issue for many sectors is unfair wages and poor working conditions.

“In some specific sectors, like health care, there are real labour shortages that must be addressed, but often, when businesses talk about labour shortages it is actually employers complaining about finding workers at the rock-bottom wages they were used to paying,” said Bruske. “If restaurants, retail or other low-wage places paid better, offered predictable hours and included real benefits, they would absolutely find there are workers out there for them.”

Bruske added that as people look at the latest labour stats, it is vital they look beyond the top-level numbers to see the full picture. Statistics Canada said the unemployment rate would have been 7.4% last month, if it included people who wanted a job but did not look for one.

“There are so many people that are discouraged from this job market, unable to find decent, secure, work. We all want to declare the pandemic over, but building back the economy is a marathon, not a sprint,” concluded Bruske. “Too many workers and families are not sharing in the recovery while governments and employers take premature victory laps.”

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