Canada needs more detailed job market data: watchdog

Tue May 6, 2014 12:39pm EDT
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By Louise Egan

OTTAWA (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 can 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 in 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 Statscan ensures the quality of its data, generates it efficiently and in response to user needs.   Continued...

People wait in line for resume critique and career assessment sessions at the 2014 Spring National Job Fair and Training Expo in Toronto, April 3, 2014. REUTERS/Aaron Harris