Veracity of sources

I love reading the labour market experts and their month musings on employment growth in New Brunswick. Equally, I am fascinated at how journalists just write the stuff verbatim. The T&T is quoting Statistics Canada spokesman Jason Gilmour. Now, let’s assume that this guy is an expert in his field. Probably more qualified than I to speak to labour force issues. He says:

“The province is growing well, even when stacked up against growth percentages of Western provinces.”

Now, year over year, New Brunswick’s employment growth was 2.2%. British Columbia and Alberta combined saw employment growth of almost 4.3% – or double New Brunswick.

Now, I don’t want to split hairs here. Maybe he is including Manitoba and Saskatchewan in his calculation and then New Brunswick’s employment growth would be slightly lower than all of the Western provinces combined.

But the insinuation here is that New Brunswick’s employment growth is very strong. Year over year, New Brunswick’s employment growth is at the national average. Certainly better than 90% of the time over the past 20 years – but not even in the ball park of Alberta.

Then the T&T quotes our favourite, Mr. LeBreton. He say a variety of things and concludes with:

“With such substantial growth in the province over the last 20 years, LeBreton said the work force will eventually plateau and growth will steady itself for a few years.”

Now, this is just plain silly. The province’s employment growth has underperformed the national average almost 90% of the time in the last 20 years. “Substantial growth”? LeBreton must be swigging back on a bottle of JD while on the tele the T&T. Or maybe he’s just joking?

New Brunswick’s “substantial growth” has led to population decline (1999-2006 the population has dropped). It has led to substantially increases in the requirement for Equalization and other transfer payments. And it has led a almost universally recognized crisis (or have we forgotten the Self Sufficiency taskforce only three months ago?).

Why this stuff stinks is that policy makers read this crap and think they don’t have to act.

LeBreton did make one very important point. He says that the call centre industry grew from 6,000 to 22,000 – a 16,000 job increase in the past 16 years. Most of the other industries that experienced growth (health care, engineering services, construction, etc.) are mostly reactive in their growth pattern (i.e. if you don’t have 16,000 new call centre jobs, you don’t need 14,000 new houses constructed and you don’t need 22 new doctors).

What will be the ‘call centre’ sector for the next 20 years?

That should be keeping policy makers up at night. In a matter of fact, it should be keeping LeBreton up at night as well. Instead of trying to spitshine an economy that has underperformed for decades – he should be sounding the warning bell that the future is seriously problematic.