The 10% red herring

A red herring is defined as a distractor that draws attention away from the real issue.

The government constantly throws up this statistic of having a lower than 10% unemployment rate. In fact, the Premier calls this one of this top accomplishments.

But once again, as always, they fail to put anything in context.

From December 1999 to 2006 – the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped from 10.3% to 9.6% – a percentage drop of 7% (not an absolute drop but a percentage drop). Now, during the same period Nova Scotia’s unemployment rate dropped 15%, PEI’s dropped 11%, Manitoba’s dropped 22%, Alberta’s dropped 25% and BC’s dropped 38%.

Now if your ‘unemployment rate’ drop performance has been below the majority of other provinces, how can you hold this among your top accomplishments?

It’s a bit like the Employment Rate (the percentage of working age folks actually working). NB ranks 8th or 9th in this stat depending on the time frame you use and when a reporter asked the Minister of Training and Employment Development about it she said that ‘we don’t measure ourselves against other provinces’ or something like that.

Well, if we can’t compare ourselves to other provinces for population growth/decline, employment rates, unemployment rates, etc. than how do we measure our success?

The next time you hear someone say our unemployment rate is below 10%, you say So? And remind them about the 90,000+ people on Employment Insurance during the year. Remind them about the out-migration for 13 straight years. Remind them that we are among the bottom two or three provinces across almost every economic benchmark.

I have another 10%. That’s the amount of folks that will ultimately buy this notion that we are in a prosperous economy and things are booming.

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0 Responses to The 10% red herring

  1. Anonymous says:

    I know I’m not too smart but what is a ‘percentage drop’? That looks more like a drop of one percent to me, perhaps somebody with a little more knowledge of statistics can explain it.

    While comparing ourselves to other provinces MAY not be a benchmark, do we have historical numbers? If we are only comparing ourselves with the history of New Brunswick, how come we never hear those figures either? Under NB Works a good percentage of EI people were working in short term jobs so one would suspect that under McKenna job statistics wouldn’t be too bad.

    However, we don’t know. As was mentioned elsewhere before, if you have a net outmigration, your dip in unemployment numbers could very well reflect the fact that the people who are unemployed are leaving.

    So for benchmarks, if the numbers are so pretty, how come we hardly hear about them?

    As has also been mentioned here before, employment figures are pretty easy to quantify:

    1. How many new companies set up in a particular region, or the province:
    2. How many current businesses have expanded, and whether it was seasonal:
    3. How many new large scale employers have set up shop:
    4. How many ‘public administration’ jobs have been created:
    5. How many ‘frontline workers’ have been added by government (nurses, doctors, technicians, teachers, social workers-NOT administrators):

    THOSE are the employment and economic statistics I’d love to see. Some we know, as has been mentioned, we know from you how much more money in ‘government services’ Lord has increased, however we don’t know how many people he’s hired (or do we?)

    For large scale its pretty easy to discover, of the ONLY new large operations we know of, -Belledune still has minimal staff and Nackawic, of course, LOST many jobs. Bathurst lost jobs, that was just ‘the market’ according to Lord (again, THAT is Lords fault NOT the press).

    It will be interesting to see how many more jobs 350 million buys in the forestry sector, judging from the past and other experiences (mad cow) that money will line the pockets of owners and workers/middlemen will see little.

    So forget base statistics, even ones compared to other provinces, what are THOSE numbers I mention above. Somehow I think we’ll find as has been mentioned-the only jobs created have been by Lord in ‘government services’ and i’ll even wager few of those have been of use to the public, we saw how miserly these guys are with red cross workers who work their asses off for minimum wage.

  2. David Campbell says:

    I know, I know, you are never supposed to measure the percentage change of a percentage. It is confusing but necessary to illustrate the relative drop in unemployment rate compared to other provinces. In absolute terms, the rate declined 0.7% significantly less than our friends in Nova Scotia and PEI. I think you are mostly correct in your statement that the outmigration is also putting downward pressure on the unemployment rate.

    Regarding your list of questions, the answers are available but it takes a little digging. The newswire at will list all the press releases related to new company announcements and in which communities. But I did this a few years ago and it depressed me. About 70% of the new company announcements were expansions of call centres already in place. They also announce the ‘virtual call centres’ going into rural communities (theres a dozen now, I believe) – but that’s about it for rural NB. the rest of your questions could be answered by Business New Brunswick, I think.

    On the public administration front, I will write a separate blog about this.