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Not a jobless recovery, but the landscape is changing

So much for the jobless recovery. After scores of worrisome storiesgrousing that part-time jobs far too often replace full-time positions,and that an economic turnaround would fail to dent unemployment,Statistics Canada had some good news.

So much for the jobless recovery. After scores of worrisome stories grousing that part-time jobs far too often replace full-time positions, and that an economic turnaround would fail to dent unemployment, Statistics Canada had some good news. It reported that 79,000 jobs were added in the month of November, almost half of which were full-time positions.


Even the ravaged Ontario economy managed to add 27,000 jobs, the province’s best monthly gain since September of 2008. Canada is hardly out of the woods — we’re still 321,000 jobs shy of employment levels before the onset of recession — but the job picture is brightening the way it always does when the cycle turns up. Employers actually hire more people.


Then again, look at what they’re being hired to do. The long-term trend in this respect is healthy, or not, depending on your point of view. More than 92 per cent of the jobs added in November were in the service sector. Roughly 78 per cent of the 16.9 million people now employed in Canada perform services rather than producing goods, up from 75 per cent five years ago. The major service categories in descending order of importance: Wholesale and retail trade; health care and social assistance; educational services; professional, scientific and technical services; and financial services.


In the past year, the service sector has added 38,000 jobs. And over the past five years, the total number of service sector jobs has grown by nearly nine per cent.


The goods-producing sector is a different story. If the Pythons were mocking Canada today, they’d be singing about lingerie salesmen instead of lumberjacks. In all, there are nearly eight per cent fewer goods-producing jobs than there were five years ago. More than 295,000 goods-producing jobs were lost in the year ended in November, with more than half of the cuts coming in manufacturing. Major job losses have also been felt in construction and natural resources, in the latter instance, most recently in Timmins, Ont.


There are several reasons for our inexorable drift to a service economy, including globalization (the Chinese and others just make things more cheaply than we can), shifting commodity prices, and the general economic cycle. And at least we can console ourselves with the fact that it will be a private-sector-dominated service economy. The private sector -- including company employees and the self-employed -- accounts for about 80 per cent of total employment in Canada, only marginally less than it did five years ago.

 
 
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