Measuring Labour Markets in Canada and the United States: 2003 Edition

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This report is a first attempt at quantifying labour-market performance and the characteristics that affect it across Canadian provinces and US states. It includes comprehensive measures of how well labour markets across Canada and the US have performed over the last five years and critical characteristics such as unionization rates and public-sector employment rates, which affect performance.

Measuring Labour Markets in Canada and the United States is a first attempt at quantifying labour-market performance and the characteristics that affect performance across Canadian provinces and US states. The study includes comprehensive measures of how well labour markets across Canada and the US have performed over the last five years as well as critical characteristics such as unionization rates and public-sector employment rates, which affect labour market performance. Below are some of the main findings of the study.

1) Alberta and Ontario, with overall scores of 7.5 and 5.5, respectively, on the Index of Labour Market Performance, which measures job creation, unemployment, and productivity, dominate labour market performance in Canada.

2) Only the province of Alberta was able to compete with US states in general with respect to its labour market performance.

3) Newfoundland had the dubious distinction of recording the worst labour market performance over the last five years of any Canadian province or US state, based on the Index of Labour Market Performance.

4) There are clearly some national barriers to improved performance that affect all provinces. The national unemployment system is one example of a national policy affecting the ability of provincial labour markets to improve their performance.

5) All Canadian provinces, including Alberta and Ontario, maintain relatively high rates of unionization and employment in the public sector.

6) All Canadian provinces except Alberta maintain a relatively high real minimum wage as measured by the ratio of minimum wage earnings to per-capita GDP; six of the bottom 10 jurisdictions (ranked from lowest to highest) were Canadian.

7) All Canadian provinces require improvements in their labour-relations laws.

8) Similarly, all provinces must review the operations of their respective Labour Relations Boards, the entities charged with enforcing the labour relations laws.

9) It is also important to recognize that there are other influential bodies within the labour markets that were not covered, or only covered superficially, in this study. These include the Labour Standard Acts and the various boards enforcing such laws, the various Worker Compensation Boards, and the courts that adjudicate differences. As was found with the labour relations and the Labour Relations Boards that enforce such laws, these other bodies can have extraordinary influence on labour markets by substantially increasing or decreasing the level of labour-market flexibility.


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