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Inflation in Canada likely slowed again in April, but economists say wage growth a top concern

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A person shops at a grocery store in Toronto, on Nov. 22, 2022.Carlos Osorio/Reuters

Canadians’ wages are finally growing faster than prices as inflation continues to ease, but that isn’t necessarily good news for economists who worry high wage growth might stand in the way of bringing inflation back down to the two per cent target.

Statistics Canada’s consumer price index report set to be released Tuesday is expected to show inflation slowed once again in April.

A combination of easing global pressures and higher interest rates have brought inflation down significantly since last summer in both Canada and the U.S. Here in Canada, the inflation rate has been nearly halved, slowing from a peak of 8.1 per cent to 4.3 per cent in March.

TD is forecasting the annual inflation rate was 4.0 per cent in April. The commercial bank also expects food inflation, which has strained people’s finances considerably, eased last month.

The slowdown in inflation gave the Bank of Canada justification to pause its aggressive rate hiking cycle earlier this year and opt for a wait-and-see approach.

The Bank of Canada is forecasting inflation will fall to about three per cent in the coming months. The path to two per cent inflation is expected to be much longer, however, as the central bank expects inflation to return to target by the end of 2024.

Its key interest rate sits at 4.5 per cent – the highest it’s been since 2007. Higher borrowing costs caused by the rate hikes are expected to nearly halt economic growth this year.

But the Bank of Canada has said it won’t be satisfied until inflation comes back to its two per cent target. To gauge what the path to two per cent inflation will look like, the central bank is keeping a close eye on a specific part of the economy: the labour market.

The performance of the Canadian labour market has been somewhat of a mystery to economists. Forecasters have been surprised time and again by stronger-than-expected job gains, while the unemployment rate holds steady at five per cent.

The strength in the labour market is partly explained by strong population growth in the country that’s adding to the number of workers available to firms. Meanwhile, vacancies have eased from last summer as firms report fewer labour shortages.

But with an unemployment rate just above the country’s record low of 4.9 per cent, economists says the labour market is clearly still very tight.

That tight labour market, the central bank argues, is a sign of an overheated economy that’s fuelling inflation.

A key element of the central bank’s worries is how the tight labour market is affecting wages. After lagging inflation for much of the run-up in prices, wage growth has now surpassed inflation, rising 5.2 per cent in April from a year ago.

For workers who have been squeezed by the rising cost of living, this wage growth spells good news.

TD’s director of economics, James Orlando, says wages are now playing catch-up as workers seek compensation for inflation.

“After a long period of time of workers getting real pay cuts, because their wages have not kept up with inflation, you’re having offsetting effects where now this wage growth is, is starting to cause real wage gains,” said James Orlando, TD’s director of economics.

Recently, thousands of federal workers who walked off the job secured tentative agreements with the federal government that include significant wage increases meant to compensate for inflation. These workers, represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, will receive a 12.6 per cent compounded raise over four years in addition to a $2,500 lump-sum payment.

Orlando says unionized workers usually see their wages adjust after private sector workers, which means wages may continue to rise rapidly as more collective agreements are negotiated.

BMO’s chief economist, Douglas Porter, says wage growth above inflation is normally not a problem if the economy is also experiencing productivity growth. But productivity growth has not been keeping up with wages, and in fact, has been on the decline recently.

“Unfortunately, Canada hasn’t had much productivity growth in recent years. So, it is a bit of a challenge for the inflation outlook,” Porter said.

Economists say higher wages are feeding into higher prices for services, which continue to rise rapidly even as goods prices have moderated. Wage growth won’t lead to higher inflation, Porter said, but it could make it harder to bring inflation down.

The Bank of Canada’s nervousness about the labour market and sticky inflation led its governing council to consider raising rates last month. It ultimately decided to remain on pause, but Governor Tiff Macklem sent a message to financial markets that they shouldn’t expect rate cuts any time soon.

Rate hikes, Macklem has said, are far more likely.

 

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Half of Ontarians support union’s goals in ongoing LCBO strike: poll

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Fewer than one-third of Ontarians say they want the provincial government to intervene to end the 12-day strike at Ontario’s main liquor retailer, while about half are supportive of the striking union’s demands.

That’s according to a new Leger poll that asked if the government should use binding arbitration or legislation to ensure LCBO stores open as soon as possible.

Twenty-nine per cent of respondents supported such a move, while 44 per cent opposed it. The poll also asked if respondents support the union’s stated goals, including wage increases and more permanent positions. Just under half, 49 per cent, answered in the affirmative, while 25 per cent said they were not supportive.

Awareness of the strike in Ontario is high, according to the poll, with 89 per cent saying they knew about it, though only 15 per cent reported being personally affected. The Leger poll of 601 residents, conducted last weekend, can’t be assigned a margin of error because online surveys are not considered truly random samples.

Approximately 10,000 workers at the LCBO walked off the job on July 5 after negotiations broke down.

The union representing the workers said the sides were headed back to the bargaining table Wednesday.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has said the main issue is the province’s alcohol expansion plans that would see ready-to-drink cocktails sold outside LCBO stores — a move it maintains poses an existential threat to the LCBO and could lead to major job losses.

Colleen MacLeod, chair of the union’s LCBO bargaining unit, has said the plan would “mean thousands of lost jobs, fewer hours for the 70 per cent of LCBO retail workers who are casual and struggling to make ends meet, and hundreds of millions in dollars of lost public revenues drained from health care, education and infrastructure.”

The LCBO, a Crown corporation, nets the province $2.5 billion a year.

On Monday, the Ontario government sped up its expansion plan. The 450 stores across Ontario already licensed to sell beer, wine and ciders will be able to start ordering coolers and seltzers on Thursday and sell them as soon as they arrive.

The province has said it does not want to privatize the LCBO, and that the expansion is about giving people more choice and more convenience to buy alcohol.

Stephanie Ross, an associate professor in the school of labour studies at McMaster University, said Premier Doug Ford doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to labour, given the high-profile disputes in recent years with health-care and education workers. And he’s faced accusations of making policy moves that benefit friends in the private sector, a criticism that’s been levied against him in the LCBO dispute.

“There is a base of support for the union’s message here, both in terms of the working conditions that they’re trying to fight to improve, and in terms of the role that the LCBO plays in funding public services in the province,” she said.

But the public may not be as sympathetic to LCBO workers as it has been to some others, like in the Metro grocery workers’ strike last year, she said — a relatively straightforward fight by low-paid workers struggling to afford food against the industry being partially blamed for food prices.

“And so in the depths of a kind of historic cost-of-living crisis, I think it was easier to feel sympathy for such workers in terms of really having to fight to make up lost ground.”

That means the LCBO union has its work cut out to try and convince the public of its cause, said Ross, especially when consumers are already divided on the liquor privatization issue in the first place. She thinks the union is doing a good job, however, of arguing the case for the LCBO as a public asset that helps fund important public services.

Larry Savage, a professor in the labour studies department at Brock University, said it’s clear both the union and the Ford government “are working hard to win over the public to their respective positions.”

The union has a “potentially powerful strategy” to gain public support, but it’s not a surefire one, he said in an email.

This strategy “requires people to connect the dots between the privatization of the LCBO and the loss of a critical revenue stream that contributes billions to public services like health care and education.”

Meanwhile, the government’s strategy has been to try and leverage consumer frustration over the strike in order to drive more support for increased privatization, said Savage.

“It’s a high-risk strategy because a heavy-handed approach can sometimes backfire and garner greater sympathy for the workers and their cause.”

In the Leger poll, 32 per cent of respondents said they looked for alternative locations to buy alcohol due to the strike, and while 15 per cent said they were concerned the strike could cause them to spend more money on alcohol.

Savage said while many consumers are likely inconvenienced, he also thinks most Ontarians are suspicious of the premier’s intentions when it comes to the LCBO: “It’s a classic case of private profits over the public good.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 17, 2024.

 

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Half of Ontarians support union’s goals in ongoing LCBO strike: poll

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Fewer than one-third of Ontarians say they want the provincial government to intervene to end the 12-day strike at Ontario’s main liquor retailer, while about half are supportive of the striking union’s demands.

That’s according to a new Leger poll that asked if the government should use binding arbitration or legislation to ensure LCBO stores open as soon as possible.

Twenty-nine per cent of respondents supported such a move, while 44 per cent opposed it. The poll also asked if respondents support the union’s stated goals, including wage increases and more permanent positions. Just under half, 49 per cent, answered in the affirmative, while 25 per cent said they were not supportive.

Awareness of the strike in Ontario is high, according to the poll, with 89 per cent saying they knew about it, though only 15 per cent reported being personally affected. The Leger poll of 601 residents, conducted last weekend, can’t be assigned a margin of error because online surveys are not considered truly random samples.

Approximately 10,000 workers at the LCBO walked off the job on July 5 after negotiations broke down.

The union representing the workers said the sides were headed back to the bargaining table Wednesday.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has said the main issue is the province’s alcohol expansion plans that would see ready-to-drink cocktails sold outside LCBO stores — a move it maintains poses an existential threat to the LCBO and could lead to major job losses.

Colleen MacLeod, chair of the union’s LCBO bargaining unit, has said the plan would “mean thousands of lost jobs, fewer hours for the 70 per cent of LCBO retail workers who are casual and struggling to make ends meet, and hundreds of millions in dollars of lost public revenues drained from health care, education and infrastructure.”

The LCBO, a Crown corporation, nets the province $2.5 billion a year.

On Monday, the Ontario government sped up its expansion plan. The 450 stores across Ontario already licensed to sell beer, wine and ciders will be able to start ordering coolers and seltzers on Thursday and sell them as soon as they arrive.

The province has said it does not want to privatize the LCBO, and that the expansion is about giving people more choice and more convenience to buy alcohol.

Stephanie Ross, an associate professor in the school of labour studies at McMaster University, said Premier Doug Ford doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to labour, given the high-profile disputes in recent years with health-care and education workers. And he’s faced accusations of making policy moves that benefit friends in the private sector, a criticism that’s been levied against him in the LCBO dispute.

“There is a base of support for the union’s message here, both in terms of the working conditions that they’re trying to fight to improve, and in terms of the role that the LCBO plays in funding public services in the province,” she said.

But the public may not be as sympathetic to LCBO workers as it has been to some others, like in the Metro grocery workers’ strike last year, she said — a relatively straightforward fight by low-paid workers struggling to afford food against the industry being partially blamed for food prices.

“And so in the depths of a kind of historic cost-of-living crisis, I think it was easier to feel sympathy for such workers in terms of really having to fight to make up lost ground.”

That means the LCBO union has its work cut out to try and convince the public of its cause, said Ross, especially when consumers are already divided on the liquor privatization issue in the first place. She thinks the union is doing a good job, however, of arguing the case for the LCBO as a public asset that helps fund important public services.

Larry Savage, a professor in the labour studies department at Brock University, said it’s clear both the union and the Ford government “are working hard to win over the public to their respective positions.”

The union has a “potentially powerful strategy” to gain public support, but it’s not a surefire one, he said in an email.

This strategy “requires people to connect the dots between the privatization of the LCBO and the loss of a critical revenue stream that contributes billions to public services like health care and education.”

Meanwhile, the government’s strategy has been to try and leverage consumer frustration over the strike in order to drive more support for increased privatization, said Savage.

“It’s a high-risk strategy because a heavy-handed approach can sometimes backfire and garner greater sympathy for the workers and their cause.”

In the Leger poll, 32 per cent of respondents said they looked for alternative locations to buy alcohol due to the strike, and while 15 per cent said they were concerned the strike could cause them to spend more money on alcohol.

Savage said while many consumers are likely inconvenienced, he also thinks most Ontarians are suspicious of the premier’s intentions when it comes to the LCBO: “It’s a classic case of private profits over the public good.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 17, 2024.

 

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Being Angry at Employers for Looking out for Their Interests Won’t Land You a Job

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The current job market is a stark reminder of a fundamental truth: The employee-employer relationship is inherently asymmetrical. This asymmetry is the default of the employer taking on the risk of investing capital while employees only invest their time. Employers have the upper hand, and the right to work ultimately depends on their decisions, as evidenced by layoffs.

 

Employees don’t own their jobs; their employers do.

 

In the face of rejection after rejection, job seekers become frustrated and angry, blaming employers for being unreasonable, greedy, or only looking out for their interest, as if their employers are in the business of hiring people. This mindset is counterproductive and will only hinder your ability to land a job.

 

I don’t think job seekers are angry with employers. I think they’re angry because they were in demand, and now they’re not. Recently, the tech industry has had more than its share of layoffs. Most likely, until now, those laid off had only experienced being highly sought after. A shift of this kind requires humility, which is lacking amid all the anger directed at employers.

 

When making a hiring decision, the employer rightfully prioritizes its interests over those of the job seeker. Employers seek candidates who can deliver value and contribute to their organization’s success. In contrast, job seekers look for roles that fit their skills, experience, and career goals. Employers looking after their interests aren’t wrong or nefarious; it’s simply smart business.

 

Employers’ self-interests are not your enemies. Instead, use them to your advantage by identifying them and positioning yourself as the solution. Demonstrating how you’ll support the employer’s interests will turn you from a generic candidate into an asset.

Three strategies can be used to align your self-interests—presumably landing a job—with those of an employer (Envision, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.”):

 

Understand the employer’s priorities, the obvious being to generate profit.

 

Job seekers tend to focus solely on the job description and the required qualifications and overlook the company’s overall goal(s). Knowing (read: researching) the company’s goals will enable you to explain how your skills and experience can support their goals.

 

Suppose you’re applying for a marketing coordinator role at a rapidly growing tech startup. The job posting lists key responsibilities, including managing the company’s social media accounts, creating content, and planning events. However, after studying the company holistically, you find, like most companies, it prioritizes gaining new customers.

 

With this knowledge, you can position yourself as a candidate who can help drive that growth by emphasizing, using quantifying numbers (e.g., In eight months, increased Instagram followers from 1,200 to 32,000.) in your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter and during your interview, your experience developing high-performing social media campaigns attracting new leads for previous employers. You could mention your innovative ideas for using user-generated content to raise brand awareness or partnering with industry influencers. The key is to show that you possess the required functional skills and understand the company’s overall goals and how you can help achieve them.

 

Explain how you’ll make your ‘to-be’ boss’s life easier.

 

Your ‘to-be’ boss is juggling a million competing priorities, budget constraints, and pressure from their boss to optimize their team’s productivity.

 

Position yourself as the candidate who’ll simplify your ‘to-be’ boss’s life, and you’ll differentiate yourself from other candidates. During the interview, make it a point to understand the specific pain points and challenges your ‘to-be’ boss is facing—I outright ask, “What keeps you up at night?”—and then present yourself as a solution.

 

Perhaps the department has a retention problem. You could tell a STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) story, demonstrating your ability to build strong cross-functional relationships and create a positive work culture that boosts employee engagement and loyalty.

 

Educating your prospective boss that by hiring you, they’ll have one less headache is a hard-to-ignore value proposition.

 

Show how their success is equal to yours.

 

Hiring boils down to finding candidates who can drive measurable business results. Don’t rely solely on your skills and experience. Outline how you can deliver tangible benefits to the employer. Quantify the value you’ve brought to previous employers.

 

If you’re applying for a sales role, share data on the year-over-year revenue growth, client retention rates, and customer satisfaction scores you achieved in your previous positions. Quantify the value you brought to the organization, then explain how you can replicate or exceed that level of performance in the new role.

 

Say you’re interviewing for an IT support position. In addition to highlighting your technical expertise, again using a STAR story, highlight your expertise in streamlining processes, reducing downtime, and providing exceptional customer service. Tie those accomplishments back to the employer’s need to maximize productivity and minimize disruptions.

 

The key is to make a compelling case that the employer also succeeds when you succeed.

 

It’s understandable to feel frustrated by rejection, but the most successful candidates recognize that employers have legitimate business priorities. Identifying an employer’s interests and showing how you can support them will improve your chances of landing a job. Stop expecting an employer to save you. Save an employer.

_____________________________________________________________________

 

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

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