(SNN) - The economic news, rarely rosy to begin with, it seems, just got a little worse with the revelation that Alberta lost 11,300 jobs in March. As alarming as this statistic may be, it must come with a healthy dose of reality. Raw numbers rarely tell the whole story.
For example, this statistic does not reflect the fact that March numbers, historically, have often spiked. This is borne out by an examination of the last ten years of data from the Statistics Canada website where March spikes are shown to occur the majority of the time. It is exactly what one would expect in an economy with such a large energy extraction component to it. “Spring break-up” is a fact of life in northern Alberta as winter roads deteriorate and remote industries slow down until the bush roads become drier and more stable. The same phenomenon occurs in the fall until “freeze up”. These periods of less activity are mirrored in the support businesses in the industrial parks close to more major population centers. It is a great object lesson that whither northern industry goes, southern Alberta must follow.
It is also important to point out that, by shedding 11,300 jobs, it still put Alberta in a globally enviable position of having an unemployment rate of just 4.7%. Experts have often made the point that 5% unemployment is, in reality, full employment. They say the other 5% represent people no one would hire, no matter what the economy; they wear their underwear on the outside of their pants, for example.
By constantly making mountains out of statistical molehills, we run the risk of undermining our confidence in the economy. This confidence is often the only difference between economic prosperity and financial ruin. Let’s make sure, when we see headlines of this nature, that we, ourselves fact-check the numbers to give the shrill statistics some context. Never trust a single number; it is simply data, not information.
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