OTTAWA — The reputation of Canada’s statistical agency took a serious blow Friday with the release of a corrected July jobs report showing the economy actually gained almost 42,000 jobs last month — nowhere near the paltry 200 it wrongly reported a week ago.
Statistics Canada blamed the botched numbers on an overhaul of its market-moving Labour Force Survey, an exercise it undertakes every 10 years.
One of the programs wasn’t updated during the redesign — a mistake the agency chalks up to human error — resulting in the number of full-time job losses being overstated.
The corrected figures show there were in fact 18,000 full-time jobs lost in July, a far cry from the 60,000 losses reported last week.
The number of part-time gains remains unchanged at about 60,000.
The mistake did not change Canada’s unemployment rate, which stays at 7.0 per cent in July, down a tenth of a point from the previous month.
Despite the error, which resulted in new employment insurance claims being frozen until the mistake could be fixed, Statistics Canada says it remains confident in the quality of its data.
“I am fully confident in the integrity of the Labour Force Survey program,” chief statistician Wayne Smith said in a statement.
“This was an isolated incident. Statistics Canada does and will continue to publish high-quality and relevant statistical information on all aspects of the Canadian economy and society.”
The agency says it has launched an internal review to find out what went wrong and why no one noticed the mistake.
But some economists, who had generally expected a gain of 20,000 jobs in July, have concerns about what they perceive to be a great degree of volatility from one month’s job numbers to the next.
There are economists who prefer to look at averages over three, six and 12 months rather than at the latest monthly job numbers.
The corrected jobs report had a few other changes from the one released last week, such as:
— The participation rate in July was 66.1 per cent, not 65.9 per cent;
— the employment rate was 61.4 per cent , not 61.3 per cent;
— More people between the ages of 15 to 24, and 25 and 54, had jobs;
Provincially, the corrected July numbers mostly affect Ontario and, to a lesser extent, Quebec. Ontario’s job gain rose to 39,500 from 15,100, while the correction turned a 13,400-job loss in Quebec into a 1,900 job gain.
There was no job growth in Manitoba, as Statistics Canada incorrectly reported last week. Employment actually fell in Nova Scotia, even though a week ago the province’s job numbers were reported to be mostly unchanged.