I came across two stories online this morning related to the twin themes of employment and education.
1. In New Brunswick, we often use Alberta as our example of a working economy - something slightly disturbing given that province's environmental record and NB's own flirtation with oil and gas extraction as a substitute for our failing fishing and forestry sectors.
But if Alberta's ruling class (and their friends in Ottawa) have their way, it may not be the land of high wages for much longer. The Alberta Federation of Labour’s Tony Clark has a guest post on The Progress Economics Forum titled Alberta’s Bogus Labour Shortage. In it he gives an overview of the province's re-working of projected labours stats to predict a looming storage:
The Alberta Federation of Labour took a long hard look at the Government of Alberta’s projections showing an astronomical labour shortage of 114,000 workers by 2021 and found them to be based on misleading methods.
Instead of a straightforward calculation of demand for labour minus supply of labour, with a shortage occurring when total demand exceeds total supply, Alberta used a strange formula that subtracts the annual change in demand from the annual change in supply.
The result: even though the Alberta government’s projections show the supply of labour exceeding demand (a labour surplus, one would think) for every year through 2021, their strange method shows a labour shortage.
What’s more, the government accumulated these phony yearly labour shortages up to 2021 to show a “cumulative shortage” of 114,000 workers even though this supposed shortfall would be captured in the following year’s demand. Put another way: one vacant job over ten years is still one vacant job, not 10 as the Alberta government would have us believe.
Mr. Clark observed that Alberta's poor math nicely justifies Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney steps to expand the "Temporary Foreign Worker pilot program whereby employers won’t have to consider hiring Canadians in certain occupations first before turning to offshore labour." Meanwhile, "anti-union interests in the province" have been using "the government’s faulty labour shortage figures to call for radical changes to labour markets with the end goal of depressing wages in the oil sands."
There is more to this article, as well as a couple of notable comments: I would encourage anyone trying to sort the politics from the jobs in Canada's economy to go to the original post; and, indeed, to vist the PEF frequently.
2. Meanwhile, south of the border, the Center for Economic and Policy Research published, in July of this year, a study showing the US workers are better educated than they were 30 or 40 years ago, but have less opportunity to get a good job. In their abstract or synopsis, John Schmitt and Janelle Jones write:
The U.S. workforce is substantially older and better-educated than it was at the end of the 1970s. The typical worker in 2010 was seven years older than in 1979. In 2010, over one-third of US workers had a four-year college degree or more, up from just one-fifth in 1979. Given that older and better-educated workers generally receive higher pay and better benefits, we would have expected the share of “good jobs” in the economy to have increased in line with improvements in the quality of workforce. Instead, the share of “good jobs” in the U.S. economy has actually fallen. The estimates in this paper, which control for increases in age and education of the population, suggest that relative to 1979 the economy has lost about one-third (28 to 38 percent) of its capacity to generate good jobs. The data show only minor differences between 2007, before the Great Recession began, and 2010, the low point for the labor market. The deterioration in the economy's ability to generate good jobs reflects long-run changes in the U.S. economy, not short-run factors related to the recession or recent economic policy.
The full report is available here.
What is interesting to me is what this says about the future of Canada. I began this post by noting that New Brunswickers often look to Alberta as a place to get a good job (if not exactly a model for healthy economic development). For their part, Albertans - and their friends in Ottawa - often look to the U.S. for their model of how to grow an economy.
But if Tony Clark and the CEPR study are correct, wages and job opportunities are shrinking - and are going to continue to shrink - across North America, leaving us with Ian Welsh's musical chairs economy:
So, there will be recessions and non-recessions (amidst what is an ongoing long Depression). And in each recession those who fail to grab a chair will be cast out into the dispossessed. Those who keep their chairs will be allowed to keep some facsimile of the “American lifestyle”.
Well… unless we start talking seriously about voter education.