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Employment rises as Canada’s labour force shrinks slightly

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A photo of a desk and people gathered around it. In September Canada made more positive strides towards returning to pre-pandemic business activity

The national unemployment rate fell by 0.2% to 5.2% in September. Statistics Canada’s September Labour Force Survey revealed positive trends in the labour market around employment, while concerns loomed in the background regarding an aging population and ever-increasing retiree exits from the workforce.

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Employment increased in British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Yukon, and Nunavut in September; while Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and the Northwest Territories saw slight declines. Among Canada’s+ core-aged population (25-54), employment increased for women (+0.8%) and remained steady for men in the same age demographic. These remain largely positive signs for general economic performance, as well as the strong hiring climate Canada is experiencing currently.

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Gains in employment for educational services and health care and social assistance services were offset by losses in manufacturing, information, culture, and recreation, transportation and warehousing, and public administration. Increases in service sector industries reflect an increase in spending in these areas post-pandemic, which has aided a continued return toward pre-pandemic business levels.

Furthermore, people looking for work in Canada were spending less time unemployed, with a sharp decline of 9.7% (18,000) in long-term employment (the number of people who have been continually unemployed for 27 weeks or more).

This is yet another encouraging sign of a strong hiring climate. The need to continually address an inflated number of job vacancies, as seen since July, will remain of primary concern to the national labour market. Though these remain strong signs for economic performance and highlight opportunities within Canada, there are also some longer-term trends that are not as positive.

Labour force contraction

September saw a decrease in both the total size of the labour force (the total number of people employed or unemployed) by -0.4% and a decline in the participation rate of -0.1%. These declines are consistent with monthly and yearly trends that highlight the need for continued labour recruitment in Canada. Since 2002, the national labour force participation has declined by 2.4% cumulatively.

These measures remain extremely pertinent in the face of high job vacancies, and an aging population; the latter a significant domestic problem that Canada must continually address. However, in the face of yet another trend the decline becomes even more relevant:

In September, nearly one million people between 55-64 cited retirement as their main activity. Related to an aging population, increasing numbers of people in the workforce continue to pursue retirement, driving Canada’s labour force down.

As more of Canada’s working population reaches retirement age (since 2019 the number of Canadians aged 65+ grew by 11.6%, while the growth in the population of people of working age was only 3.5%), and in the face of vacancies and labour market contraction, Canada will have to take increasing measures to make sure that it does not experience a severe labour shortage and can still attain its economic and fiscal goals.

The importance of foreign workers

In the face of a labour market with high vacancies, a shrinking labour force, and an aging population—one government activity will be paramount to Canada’s ability to maintain economic growth and health: immigration.

As more of the population continues to reach or approach retirement age; coupled with a low fertility rate, it is clear that Canada cannot replenish the labour pool through natural growth. The government will instead look to address labour and skills shortages in the market through its immigration programs, (already seeing increases in Gen-Z and millennial workforce).

In the face of shortages (seen for example, in the healthcare and social assistance industry) Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) are looking to welcome a record 430,000 new immigrants annually.

The Canadian Government will additionally announce its immigration levels plan 2023-2025—the umbrella plan for newcomer strategy—by November 1st.

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COVID-19 benefits helped economy rebound, but post-payment verification lacking: AG

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Canada’s auditor general says COVID-19 benefits were delivered quickly and helped mitigate economic suffering, however, the federal government hasn’t done enough to recover overpayments.

In a new report looking into the federal government’s delivery of pandemic benefits, Karen Hogan said the programs provided relief to workers and employers affected by the pandemic and helped the economy rebound.

At the same time, the auditor general says the Canada Revenue Agency and Employment and Social Development Canada have not followed up by verifying payments.

Hogan estimates $4.6 billion was paid to people who were not eligible, while another $27.4 billion in payments to individuals and businesses should be further investigated.

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“I am concerned about the lack of rigour on post-payment verifications and collection activities,” Hogan said in a news release.

The audit found that efforts to recover overpayments have been limited, with the Canada Revenue Agency collecting $2.3 billion through voluntary repayments.

Pre-payment controls were also lacking, though the report said the federal government made some changes to those controls for individual benefits.

However, the CRA made few changes to improve prepayment controls for businesses to mitigate risks of overpayment.

Hogan also flagged that there was a lack of sufficient data to assess the effectiveness of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program.

Although the subsidy did go to businesses in industries hardest hit by the pandemic, the report said the effect of the subsidy on business resilience is unclear because the agency collected limited data from businesses.

The auditor general has made a set of recommendations to the government to improve the collection of overpayments and to fix data gaps relating to businesses.

Government organizations reviewed in the audit say they have accepted the recommendations, though only partially accepted a recommendation related to recuperating overpayments.

The federal government said it would prioritize which to pursue by weighing the resources necessary with the amount owed.

“It would not be cost effective nor in keeping with international and industry best practices to pursue 100 per cent of all potentially ineligible claims,” the response said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

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Liberals pledge $15 million to remove Ukraine mines on anniversary of Ottawa Treaty

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Liberals pledge $15 million to remove Ukraine mines on anniversary of Ottawa Treaty

The Trudeau government is pledging to spend $15 million to remove mines in Ukraine.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says the funding is meant to make the country safer after Russia has laid hundreds of the indiscriminate weapons.

Human Rights Watch says Ukrainian forces have also been laying anti-tank mines across the country.

Joly made the announcement on Monday to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Ottawa Treaty, which bans landmines in most countries.

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Ottawa has so far provided Canadian-made bomb suits to help protect Ukrainian deminers and has plans to help fund remote-control systems to clear large areas such as farmlands.

Last month, Canada unveiled funding to remove both landmines and cluster bombs from parts of Southeast Asia that remain inaccessible decades after conflicts like the Vietnam War.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

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B.C.’s Julia Levy is Canada’s first trans woman Rhodes Scholar

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British Columbia’s newest Rhodes Scholar will pursue a master’s degree in computational chemistry, but she says it’s also an “incredible opportunity” as a trans woman to give back to her community.

University of Victoria graduate Julia Levy said she was “blown away” when she learned she was among 11 Canadians selected for this year’s Rhodes Scholarship, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious such awards.

Levy, 24, will head to Oxford University in England next October for the fully funded scholarship, a prize she said carries a special meaning because she is the country’s first trans woman Rhodes Scholar.

“I feel I am very, very proud being the first trans woman in Canada (to become a Rhodes Scholar),” said Levy, who made the transition from he to she three years ago.

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While the transition was a tough journey, Levy said she is aware of the many advantages she’s had.

“I think it’s really interesting to note that I am privileged in literally every other way, like my parents being supportive of my transition. I have always had financial stability and I grew up in a good part of Vancouver … maybe that’s the advantages that you need to equal out the trans part of it,” said Levy.

Levy, who graduated from the University of Victoria with a chemistry major and a minor in visual arts, described the scholarship as an “incredible opportunity and a gift,” equipping her with more knowledge and power to give back to the trans community.

“I feel my experiences of being trans and the ways that I have had to navigate the world being trans … has given me a lot of empathy for people in crisis and people who have difficulties in their lives,” said Levy.

“I know what it is to be at the bottom in some ways and my interest in harm reduction and trans care really all comes from that place of knowing what it’s like and wanting to reach out and help out where that’s possible.”

Levy is also a scientist, artist, activist, programmer, friend and daughter, she said.

“There are many parts of me that are equally important to who I am.”

University of Victoria chemistry professor Jeremy Wulff supervised Levy and said she was “destined for greatness,” bringing insights to projects that led to their success.

“I’m always excited when my students are recognized with awards and fellowships, but the Rhodes award is at a whole other level,” he said. “Julia is in excellent company amongst this group, and it’s absolutely where she belongs.”

Levy said magic can happen when you mix computation with chemistry.

In her second year at the University of Victoria, she found some classmates were struggling to picture molecules in their heads while doing peer teaching.

To help them visualize complex molecules, Levy created an augmented-reality app.

The app is a QR code in the workbook and allows the learner to see the molecule on their phone in three dimensions.

“You can work it with your phone and spin it around and zoom in and out,” said Levy.

She also worked as a technician with the university’s Vancouver Island Drug-Checking Project, a drop-in service where people can bring street drugs in for chemical analysis.

Levy said the experience used her chemistry skills in a “practical and socially active way” to help more people.

“It’s an excellent example of the social use of chemistry,” said Levy.

Levy, who was travelling in Germany during the interview, said she looks forward to being surrounded by the Rhodes community and “being challenged and pushed to new heights.”

“I hope I bring what makes me unique to Oxford, and that I am able to find a group of people, both personally and professionally, that celebrate that uniqueness,” said Levy.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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