September 10, 2020 - No. 60
Reflections on the Statistics Canada Report
Labour Market Dynamics Since the 2008/2009 Recession
Why does Canada have a state-organized and sanctioned
labour market and third party labour traffickers who for a fee
find buyers for workers' capacity to work? Why in the 21st
century must workers search for someone to buy their capacity to
work and be under the constant threat of losing their livelihoods
when either individual tragedy strikes or a general economic
crisis generates massive unemployment and despair? In the given
circumstances, the working people serve the economy and those in
control; the economy does not serve the working people and come
under their control.
The role of the working class has not changed during the long
transition period of the economy from the petty mainly rural
based economy of the previous mode of production to the mainly
urban based economy of industrial mass production. Workers
continue to be a subjected labour force beholden to a small
minority of rich oligarchs who control competing parts of the
economy for their private interests. What has changed is the
quality of the working class. It has become a mature educated
international social class comprising the vast majority of the
population. The working class is now completely capable of
leading and looking after the economic and political affairs of
modern society. The working class no longer needs a social class
overseeing and directing its actions and the economy, wherein
workers produce the social product. Lacking is the independent
organizational strength of the working class and the broad
consciousness of the necessity and social responsibility to
empower working people and build the new.
The labour market came into being over 250 years ago to serve
the transition from petty to industrial mass production.
Working people fought for civil rights but those civil rights no
longer suffice. The people need human rights that belong to them
by virtue of being human. Of primary importance are human rights
at the workplace and in the economic and political affairs of the
country. Human rights are not compatible with a labour market of
human beings and third party traffickers of those human beings.
The control of the modern fully developed economy has to go to
those who do the work. The economy must serve those who do the
work and their society. This requires, in part, a transformation
from the existing outdated one-sided social relation at the
workplace between workers and the boss. New relations of
production throughout the economy are required that uphold human
rights and empower those who do the work and produce the social
product and give them conscious control of society's economic,
political and social affairs.
Chattel slavery in the United States and elsewhere up to the
mid-nineteenth century had state-organized and sanctioned slave
markets and slave traffickers to sell those held in captivity to
buyers who wanted them for work.
The state, in abolishing chattel slavery, marked the official
end of the slave market and slave trafficking and the social
relation between chattel slaves and their owners. The vast
majority of former chattel slaves joined the working class and
went from being captured within a slave market to being captured
within a labour market. Social relations between freed slaves and
those purchasing their capacity to work came into being, which
today face a similar necessity of replacement.
The imperialist system of today, the highest and final stage
of capitalism and transition period from petty to industrial mass
production, has a state-organized and sanctioned labour market and
traffickers of workers at home and abroad. What would be required
to end the labour market and the trafficking of workers in
today's conditions? Would this not require a replacement of the
existing social relation between workers who sell their capacity
to work and those who buy it? What new direction for the economy
is required that would eliminate the labour market and the
scourge of constant mass unemployment and recurring economic
crises that generate such insecurity and distress for the working
class and loss of productivity for the economy?
Labour Market Dynamics since the 2008/2009 Recession
The StatCan report shows that the working people serve the
economy and are at its mercy as something superior to them and
beyond their control.
Statistics Canada has done extensive research on the labour
market and labour force or workforce. The research identifies
categories of the population such as the following. (Note: all
figures are from before the current crisis and all quotations are
from the report.)
The working-age population of those 15 to 64 years old, who
without distinction are eligible to sell their capacity to work
in the labour market = 24,500,000.
StatCan does not distinguish the social class differences of
those in the working-age population. It includes Canadian
oligarchs in control of the economy who even appear on the books
of the Canada Revenue Agency as earning income as directors and
senior executives of enterprises they control.
Canadian population 0 to 15 = 6,000,000
Canadian population 65+ = 6,600,000
"In 2015, one in five (19.8 per cent) Canadians aged 65 and older, or
nearly 1.1 million seniors, worked at some point during the year,
including 5.9 per cent who did so full year, full time."
The labour force of those who found a buyer for their capacity
to work = 19,190,000 workers. (This number has fallen
significantly during the current crisis to 16,184,900).
Those who wanted to find a buyer but were presently unemployed
= 1,134,000. (This number has increased dramatically during the
crisis to 2,619,200).
The labour force of those who found a buyer for their capacity
to work plus those who wanted to find a buyer but had not been
able to do so = 20,324,000.
Those in the working-age population who left the labour force
and were not looking to find a buyer for their capacity to work
at that time for whatever reason = 4,176,000.
The report studies the number and movement of workers in and
out of each status of the labour force from one month to the next
from October 2007, just prior to the economic crisis of 2008-09
through to September 2018. The study looks at the flows among the
three main labour force statuses of employed (E), unemployed (U)
and not in the labour force (N).
"The Canadian labour market is very dynamic, with 6.2 per cent of the
working-age population, on average (1,520,000 workers), having
changed their labour force status each month between January 2007
and September 2018."
Dynamic indeed! One could say dynamically destructive to the
economy and distressing and stressful for the working class to
say the least. The constant flows from one labour status to
another, the incessant high level of permanent unemployment of
over one million workers and recurring crises that damage the
interests of the working people generally, as well as small and medium
sized businesses, reveal an extremely chaotic and anarchic
situation for both the economy and working class.
Bringing the modern economy under control to serve the people
and society is the social responsibility of the working class.
The ruling oligarchs with their agendas to serve their competing
private interests are incapable of bringing the economy under
control. Only the modern working class with its broad agenda to
serve the public interest can do so. The working class can serve
its individual interests if it as well serves the collective
interests and society. This corresponds to the truth that the
working class can only emancipate itself if it emancipates all
humanity and eliminates the exploitation of humans by humans.
The 6.2 per cent monthly total changing their status within the three
labour force statuses equals approximately 1,520,000 workers. The
report says this phenomenon remains fairly constant except during
periods of crisis such as the 2008-09 economic crisis, the
aftermath of the 2014 oil price collapse and the current crisis
associated with the pandemic when the number of workers changing
their labour force status dramatically increases.
"The transition rate from employed to unemployed increased
notably during the 2008/2009 recession, and remained higher for
several years after the economic shock. The notable increase in
the number of unemployed observed during this recession was
caused by the rise in both components of the inflows to
unemployment (that is, employed to unemployed, and inactive to
unemployed). The proportion of unemployed who stayed unemployed
saw a notable increase during the recession, and remained higher
than the proportion that was observed over the 12 months before
"During the last recession in 2008/2009, employment fell by
426,000 between October 2008 and July 2009, while the number of
unemployed persons rose by 460,000."
StatCan notes, "A change in unemployment caused by major
layoffs does not have the same implications as one caused by
difficulty in finding a job."
StatCan suggests that the average difficulty in finding a job
is "normal" while major layoffs for whatever reason including a
general crisis convulse the labour market bringing severe
hardship to workers.
The report does not explore the various categories of workers
who wish to sell their capacity to work and the difficulties and
humiliations they endure, including new immigrants, migrant
workers, temporary foreign workers, workers on term contracts
directly with enterprises, workers on contracts through
employment placement companies and other worker traffickers,
those considered self-employed including those designated as such
in the gig economy etc.
The necessity for change is international. Guest workers
without rights is a widespread scourge. For example, guest
workers without even civil rights in the six countries of the
(Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council far outnumber official
citizens. In Japan, over 40 per cent of workers are considered
"irregular," employed on temporary work contracts organized
mainly through labour trafficking companies. Putting workers in
this "irregular" social relation greatly strengthens the power of
those who buy workers' capacity to work. Also, the third party
labour contractors and traffickers have become another layer of
parasites feeding off the value workers produce.
"During significant recessions, changes in the rate of job
separation (transition rate from employed to unemployed) account
for most of the fluctuations in the unemployment rate."
StatCan says the size of the unemployed labour market can
doubly increase when someone is laid off especially during a
crisis because when "a household member loses their job, another
household member enters the labour force to offset the loss,
thereby increasing the labour supply (e.g., married women with a
Because workers in general change their labour status fairly
constantly outside of periods of crises, StatCan has created a
transition rate representing the probability that a person who is
employed during one monthly period (t) will lose or leave their
job in the next period (t+1) and will be looking for
"The rate is calculated by dividing the number of persons who
moved from employed to unemployed (Et Ut+1) between the two
months by the total number of persons employed in month t."
"To show the extent of transitions in the labour market, Table
1 presents the estimated average for each of the nine principal
gross flows over the study period; in other words, the average
monthly flows between October 2007 and September 2018."
"For example, (over the period of the eleven year study)
almost 17 million workers, on average, remained employed in the
subsequent month, which represents 59.5 per cent of the population aged
15 and over."
"Over the study period, an average of 289,000 jobseekers in a
given month were employed in the subsequent month (gained
employment), or 1.0 per cent of the working-age population. Similarly, an
average of 233,000 workers became unemployed (0.8 per cent of the
population aged 15 years and over)." Note that the total number
of unemployed never went below 1.1 million during the period of
the study and rose considerably higher during the 2008-09 crisis
and oil price shock after 2014 and is now over double with the
present pandemic economic crisis.
"The period referred to as the 'recession' includes the peak
employment level (October 2008), followed by a sharp downward
turn, and the low point reached in July 2009."
See Chart 2 below -- Unemployment rate and employment rate in Canada,
January 2007 to September 2018, monthly.
Chart 2 -- Click to enlarge
"Over the course of the recession (2008-09), employment
declined by 426,000. During this period, outflows from employment
rose significantly to an average of 691,000 per month, while
inflows remained essentially stable (629,000 on average)."
"During the recovery period, employment grew, and regained the
level observed prior to the recession in January 2011. Over this
period, the increase in employment was characterized by a notable
decrease in outflows (625,000 on average per month) combined with
a moderate increase in inflows (637,000 on average)."
"From January 2015 to February 2016, both inflows and outflows
were smaller, on average, than in the previous period. Although
the transition rate from employed to unemployed was lower on
average than earlier periods, it did trend upwards. Therefore, an
employed person had a higher chance of becoming unemployed in the
Statements such as this in the report show that the working
class does not control its fate. This reality must change with a
new direction for the economy and an enforceable state guarantee
of the rights of workers. These include the right to a livelihood
and to participate consciously in the affairs at the workplace
and in setting the direction of the economy and society.
"The number of people moving from inactivity to employment
(expressed in the graph as NE) declined during the recession and
remained relatively stable during the recovery period. The
decrease in the NE flow may be an indication that it had been
taking longer for individuals to find employment. There is
normally a period of job searching before employment is found,
and if this period is very short, the NU (from not in the labour
force to unemployed and looking for work) transition will not be
Chart 6 -- Click to enlarge
"During the recession, the number of unemployed finding work
(UE) increased because of a composition effect due to a notable
rise in the number of unemployed persons. Even though the flow
increased, the probability of moving from unemployed to employed
decreased. This finding was also noted in the United States. The
number of people moving from unemployment to employment (UE)
fell, on average, over the four years following the recovery
period, while the number of people leaving or losing their job
and exiting the labour force (EN) was relatively stable."
"Chart 8 presents flows into and out of unemployment. (Page 15
in report.) Inflows (EU + NU) are the sum of persons moving from
employed to unemployed (EU) and from not in the labour force to
unemployed (NU). Outflows (UE + UN) are the sum of persons moving
from unemployed to employed (UE) and from unemployed to not in
the labour force (UN)."
Chart 8 - click to enlarge
"Over the 12 months before the recession, the number of
unemployed persons rose, as inflows were greater than outflows
(493,000 and 489,000 on average, respectively). Inflows rose
notably during the recession, the number of unemployed persons
increased sharply (+460,000)."
"From January 2015 to February 2016, coinciding with the oil
price shock, flows into unemployment trended upwards. Outflows
also increased, somewhat later in the period. Consequently, a gap
formed between the number of people entering and exiting
unemployment. The unemployment rate peaked at 7.2 per cent in January and
February 2016. Following this peak, inflows to and outflows from
unemployment both decreased and inflows went back to being less
"During the recovery period (July 2009 to January 2011), as
the number of people moving from employment to unemployment
dropped back to its pre-recession level, the number of people
entering the labour force to look for work remained higher than
the average level observed before and during the recession. This
higher average NU (not in the labour force to unemployment) flow
dampened the declines in inflows to unemployment and the number
of unemployed persons. The fact that the NU flow increased and
remained high could indicate weaker growth in employment. Chart
10 shows the share of individuals not in the labour force who
entered the labour market and did not find employment during the
first few weeks of job searching. In October 2008, this
proportion was 41.8 per cent, while it was 51.9 per cent in July 2009, an
increase of 10.1 percentage points. This increase in the share of
individuals not in the labour force who entered the labour market
and did not find employment quickly was also observed during the
recession periods in the United States. In Canada, although the
share decreased during the periods following the recession, it
remained greater than it had been in the 12 months before the
recession. The number of people moving from employment to
unemployment rose between January 2015 and February 2016.
Although the transition rate between employment and unemployment
was lower on average during that period, the rate trended upward.
This increase followed a downward trend over the previous two
periods. The flow of people from inactivity to unemployment also
rose on average over this period, but began somewhat later. An
increase in the transition rate between inactivity and
unemployment was also observed. These changes in the gross flows
and transition rates coincided with the oil price shock."
"Over the more recent period, both components of the inflows
to unemployment decreased, but the decline was less notable than
that observed for the outflows. In terms of flows out of
unemployment (Chart 11), the number of unemployed who left the
labour force in the following month (UN or unemployment to not in
the labour force) started to increase after the recession period
began. It is well documented in the literature that many
different factors may have contributed to this rise in the UN
flow. For example, job seekers who stopped searching when faced
with less than ideal job prospects, or individuals who returned
"It is difficult to determine if part of the increase in the
UN flow (from unemployed to not in the labour force) was a
composition effect caused by the rise in the number of unemployed
persons or by the increase in the number of discouraged
searchers. During the recovery and the subsequent four years, the
number of job searchers who stopped searching (UN) was higher
than the average level observed over the 12 months prior to the
recession. Nevertheless, the UN flow did trend downwards over the
period. This trend persisted until the summer of 2015 (the oil
shock). The increase in the flows out of unemployment observed
between January 2015 and February 2016 stemmed primarily from the
rise in the number of unemployed leaving the labour force."
"During periods of economic shocks, such as recessions, the
number of long-term unemployed increases. The number of
unemployed who remain so in the following month can be seen in
the gross flows. The proportion of the unemployed who remain
unemployed (UU transition rate — from unemployed to continuing
unemployment the following month) increased notably over the
recession and remained high thereafter. Over this period, the
proportion of the unemployed who had been looking for work for 27
weeks or more also increased markedly. The probability of
remaining unemployed over two consecutive months fell over the
recovery period, and this reduction persisted until the summer of
2012. However, this proportion remained higher that what had been
observed before the recession. This was also true for the
proportion of people who had been looking for work for 27 weeks
or more. The proportion of the unemployed who remained unemployed
rose between January 2015 and January 2017. The movements in the
data are clearly observable during economic shocks. The sharp
decrease in employment observed during the 2008/2009 recession
was mainly attributable to the increase in outflows from
employment, while inflows remained relatively stable. The
proportion of unemployed who stayed unemployed the next month
increased notably over the 2008/2009 recession."
The report reveals the insecurity of the working class and the
enormous waste of workers' productive power. The working class in
its movements into and out of employment and the labour force
altogether is greatly influenced by the economic conditions.
Individual fortunes may play a role but the determining factor
for significant changes arises from the economic conditions, both
the general condition of the economy, its contradictions and
problems, and those of its particular sectors and workplaces. Of
note as well is the parasitism that has arisen with imperialism,
which weighs heavily on the working class not only with its forms
such as the stock markets and other financial institutions but in
the third party manipulation and trafficking of workers and
expropriation of a portion of the value they produce.
In the current conditions many workers are left without even
civil rights let alone their modern human rights. The labour
market operates on the basis of compulsion; one could say a form
of voluntary servitude but to say voluntary would be a stretch.
Recently certain members of the imperialist oligarchy made this
clear when they complained that the government's $2,000 per month
pandemic stipend for laid off workers will act as a disincentive
for them to return to work. Workers are forced to sell their
capacity to work on pain of poverty and deprivation if they do
not. This is not modern. It violates the human rights of workers.
Compulsion, whether involuntary or voluntary servitude represent
oppressive class societies dominated by a ruling elite that
exploit the work and production of the people to serve their own
narrow class interests.
A new direction for the economy is required that would
eliminate the recurring economic crises, the labour market, the
scourge of unemployment, and the constant moving into and out of
employment and the workforce that generates such insecurity and
distress for the working class and loss of productivity for the
economy. A new direction would unleash the productive power and
enlightenment of the human factor/social consciousness. In such a
situation, workers would fulfill their duty to work without the
compulsion or threat of poverty upon losing a job and becoming
unemployed. The motivation to work would come from the changed
social conditions where workers are in control of their work and
the social product they produce and the direction of society.
Such a profound change towards empowerment of the people and
social consciousness would entail a profound change in the social
relations at the workplace from the unjust one-sided domination
of a ruling elite to one that the working people themselves
develop in conformity with the new aim of the economy to serve
the well-being of the people and society and to humanize the
social and natural environment.
The complete report by Emmanuelle Bourbeau, Labour Market Dynamics Since the 2008/2009 Recession is available
1. From StatCan "Census in Brief: Working Seniors in Canada"
- In 2015, one in five Canadians aged 65 and older, or nearly
1.1 million seniors, reported working during the year. This is
the highest proportion recorded since the 1981 Census.
the seniors who worked in 2015, about 30.0 per cent did so full year,
full time, and the majority were men.
- The percentage of
seniors who reported working nearly doubled between 1995 and
2015, with most of the increase coming from part year or part
time work. Increases in work activity were observed at all ages,
for men and women alike.
- Seniors with a bachelor's degree or
higher and those without private retirement income were more
likely to work than other seniors.
- Employment income was the
main source of income for 43.8 per cent of seniors who worked in 2015, up
from 40.4 per cent in 2005 and 38.8 per cent in 1995.
- Senior men who worked
full year, full time were most commonly managers in agriculture;
retail and wholesale trade managers; transport truck drivers;
retail salespersons; and janitors, caretakers and building
- Senior women who worked full year, full
time were most commonly administrative assistants, managers in
agriculture, administrative officers, retail salespersons,
general office support workers, and retail and wholesale trade
- Seniors in the territories as well as in
Saskatchewan, Alberta and Prince Edward Island were the most
likely to work. Those in Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, and
New Brunswick were the least likely to do so.
- Across the
country, seniors living in rural areas were more likely to work
than seniors living elsewhere.
PREVIOUS ISSUES | HOME
www.cpcml.ca Email: email@example.com