Canada needs more detailed job market data -watchdog

Tue May 6, 2014 10:19am EDT
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By Louise Egan

OTTAWA May 6 (Reuters) - Information on job vacancies provided by Canada's national statistics agency is not detailed enough to be of much use to policymakers and job seekers and could be improved, an official watchdog said in a report on Tuesday.

The report by Auditor-General Michael Ferguson underscored the challenge facing the Conservative government as it tries to tackle what it sees as one of the country's biggest economic problems: a shortage of skilled labor in some regions and sectors.

Statistics Canada's (Statscan) job vacancies report provides data on the national and provincial levels only, making it difficult to know which cities and areas are most likely to need workers. The job categories are defined too broadly and are therefore not very helpful, the report said.

"Users informed us that as a result of these shortcomings, available information on job vacancies is of limited value to them," the report added.

It cited the example of reported job vacancies in the province of Alberta, saying it was impossible to know if they were in Fort McMurray, the main town in the oil sands region in the northern part of the province, or some other town.

Statscan should look into ways of filling the need for data from small areas and subpopulations, the auditor general said.

The report also said Statscan, which publishes 350 data products including market-moving economic indicators, should consult more with the private sector, municipal governments and nongovernmental groups to ensure that the data meets their needs. It relies too much on federal and provincial governments for feedback now, the report said.

The goal of the audit was to determine whether the agency ensures the quality of its data, generates it efficiently and in response to user needs.

The report concluded generally that Statscan has systems in place to ensure the accuracy, timeliness and accessibility of its data despite some shortcomings.

It looked at four key data products: the consumer price index, the labor force survey, the survey of employment, payrolls and hours, and the 2011 national household survey, which was used in the latest census. (Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Peter Galloway)