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Manitoba’s Real Unemployment Rate

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Manitoba’s NDP government has a bad habit of hiding its economic failures. One of the provincial government’s best tricks is to brag about our low unemployment rate. Is that the right measure of success?

Statistics Canada shows that Manitoba’s unemployment rate in December 2014 was low, at 5.2%. At first glance not bad at all compared to the national rate of 6.6%. But when we factor in those who have left Manitoba to look for work, our unemployment rate could be closer to 13.8%.  Manitoba exports its unemployment to other provinces. We’ve all seen it.


If we’d just kept up with the national average for job creation since the beginning of the year 2000, there would be 29,000 more jobs in Manitoba today.


Are you angry that young people are leaving Manitoba because the NDP can’t create good jobs in Manitoba?

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Your neighbor’s daughter couldn’t find work in her field in Winnipeg, so she left for Calgary.  A cousin moved to Vancouver because it’s better place to start a technology business, and he dreams he’ll have accomplished that within five years. A thoughtful civil servant you knew got tired of working for a doing not much practical government, so he took a similar job in Regina. The university ‘A’ student who waited tables at your favorite restaurant is leaving for Toronto to pursue an academic post; she wants to specialize and knows Manitoba universities limit themselves by trying to be all things to all people. A manager friend took a promotion and moved to Mississauga, because that’s what you have to do to get a promotion if you’re from a province where the number of private corporate HQs is not only low but also on the decline.

For too long, Manitoba’s greatest export has been talented, ambitious and innovative people. We still have many bright minds and skilled workers left, at least for now, but we’ve lost too many.  Most left to find better opportunities.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The first two reasons people leave is because Manitoba both fails to create enough work to keep them here and too much of the private sector work that is here is of lower income.  Other provinces, particularly our western neighbours, have been more successful. They outpacedus because their voters didn’t accept excuses and mediocrity as a substitute for policies promoting private sector job growth, investment and innovation.

“Steady growth, good jobs.” Really? It’s not just that most of the new jobs in Manitoba aren’t good jobs. Remember, Manitoba jobs pay less than average jobs anywhere else in Canada except Quebec and the southern Atlantic provinces. Yes, even an average job in Newfoundland and Labrador pays better than here.

Manitoba under the NDP is also a failure in the number of jobs created. Manitoba’s job growth hasn’t been steady. It’s hasn’t even been average (national average, 22.5%). In the 21st Century, we’ve grown Manitoba’s job pool by 17.2%. Most of that tied one way or another to government and deficit spending.

If we’d just kept up with the national average for job creation since the beginning of the year 2000, there would be 29,000 more jobs in Manitoba today. Our failure to create new jobs at even that average rate has had consequences. Think of all those opportunity refugees: the unemployed neighbour, that entrepreneurial cousin, the depressed government worker, that student waitress seeking a better opportunity,and that ambitious will-be entrepreneur.

If you look at our annual net out-migration, we’ve exported over a hundred thousand people in just a few decades. If you look at the raw totals, it’s even worse, as the trend is getting worse. During the five years 2009-2014, over 80,000 people out-migrated from Manitoba to other provinces. On average, 2/3rds of those people would be here and in our workforce if the opportunities were better..

If every working Manitoban in that group came home tomorrow, what would happen? Mathematically, without a magically arrival of new employers, our unemployment rate would soar to 13.8%. Instead, it’s much lower because we exported the demand for good jobs to other provinces.

Whenever they’re challenged with numbers like these, the government’s first response has been to attack the figures. That’s a mistake here. First, all of these numbers are based on StatsCan sources, including seasonally adjusted labour figures. But even if you found a way to make our ‘moral’ unemployment figure only 12%, or 10%, or even 8%, the point doesn’t change. Our job growth is still below average. We’ll still know that our friends and family have kept unemployment artificially low by moving away.

So when the provincial government tries to hide its job creation failure, tell them it’s time to stop hiding from our problems. Tell them it’s time to start moving Manitoba forward again, before we export another generation of underemployed and unemployed friends, relatives and neighbours to other provinces.

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