Survey methods make Canadian jobs data more volatile

Fri Jun 7, 2013 1:55pm EDT
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* May's job gain of 95,000 well above any sampling error

* Statscan takes measures to eliminate variability

* Steps including personal visits, followed by phone calls

By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA, June 7 (Reuters) - There's a note of caution surrounding the stunning gain of 95,000 Canadian jobs in May, because the method Statistics Canada uses to get its figures brings both volatility and a wide margin of error.

But Statscan experts still see a 95 percent chance that the employment gains were between 37,600 and 152,400 in May - a very substantial monthly increase given the overall size of the Canadian economy.

Unlike the main U.S. payrolls data, Canada's most closely watched labor market data is based on monthly interviews with individual households, a method that is always subject to a substantial sampling error.

The federal agency surveys about 56,000 households, representing about 110,000 individuals aged 15 and older. Every month, five-sixths of those in the sample are people who the agency has contacted before and one out of six is new.

Economists occasionally question the reliability of the monthly results or dismiss dramatic swings like the one in May as anomalies, and even the government looks beyond data from a single month.   Continued...