August 29, 2014 / 5:43 PM / 4 years ago

Canada jobs data error caused by botched program update: probe

OTTAWA (Reuters) - (This story filed on August 28, 2014 have been corrected to make changes in paragraph 3 to remove reference to calculating how many people out of work, as there were no changes to the calculations introduced in the system)

A high-profile error in Canada’s official jobs data this month was caused by a botched update to a computer processing program at Statistics Canada, an official report into the incident said on Thursday.

Statistics Canada initially said on Aug. 8 that just 200 jobs had been created in July. It withdrew the data on Aug. 12 and reissued the numbers on Aug. 15, showing a gain of 41,700 positions in July.

The report said that as part of a redesign to improve the quality of the jobs figures, a section of the data processing system was updated this year to better calculate how many people were out of work.

The Statscan employees using the changed system did not properly understand how the update worked, however, and this led them to grossly overestimate how many people had lost their jobs in July, the report said.

“This change was perceived as systems maintenance and the oversight and governance were not commensurate with the potential risk. The systems documentation was out of date, inaccurate and erroneously supported the team’s assumptions about the system,” said the report.

“The testing conducted was not sufficiently comprehensive and operations diagnostics to catch this type of error were not present.”

The report made five recommendations, including the need for more thorough testing of data before release and more oversight of the changes made to the way the jobs figures are compiled.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Chris Reese

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