Flawed Canada jobs figures caused by data processing error

Fri Aug 15, 2014 8:43am EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Statistics Canada had to withdraw July's initial jobs data due to a "isolated" human processing error which meant the number of full-time job losses was overestimated, the agency said on Friday.

Statscan's revised figures - issued on Friday - showed a gain of 41,700 jobs in July, far higher than the 200 new positions it reported on Aug 8. Statscan withdrew the initial data on Aug 12.

The agency said that as part of a redesign to improve the quality of jobs figures, a section of the data processing system had been updated. But due to a mistake, one particular computer program was not updated.

"This was a human error that resulted in the incorrect processing of some data for July 2014 only," the agency said in a news release.

"Certain respondents that should have been classified as employed were counted as not in the labor force resulting in an overestimation of job losses in full-time employment."

Statscan initially said 59,700 full-time jobs had been lost in July. The revised data reduced this to a loss of 18,100 positions.

Statscan said that because it had been able to isolate the cause of the error, it was sure the corrected July data were accurate.

"I am fully confident in the integrity of the Labor Force Survey program. This was an isolated incident," chief Statscan statistician Wayne Smith said in the news release.

Statscan has launched an internal review to determine how the error was made and why it was not spotted. The review is expected to be made public within the next two weeks, the release added.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

 
Visitors walk through the 2014 Spring National Job Fair and Training Expo in Toronto, April 3, 2014. REUTERS/Aaron Harris