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Surge in part-time work offsets full-time losses, helps drops unemployment rate

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  • OTTAWA — The economy generated 54,100 net new jobs last month and saw its unemployment rate fall — but the headline improvements overshadowed weaker details: a rush of new part-time, public sector positions and a drop in full-time work.

    The overall July increase in jobs pushed the unemployment rate back to its four-decade low of 5.8 per cent, down from six per cent the previous month, Statistics Canada’s latest labour force survey said Friday.

    But a closer look at the numbers revealed that the country gained 82,000 less desirable, part-time positions last month — and it lost 28,000 full-time jobs. The public sector made the biggest contribution to the July increase with 49,600 new jobs, while the private sector added 5,200 positions.

    Average hourly wage growth, which is scrutinized by the Bank of Canada, continued its gradual cool-off last month with a year-over-year reading of 3.2 per cent. In June, it expanded 3.6 per cent and in May the figure was 3.9 per cent, which marked a nine-year high.

    The total number of hours worked in July expanded 1.3 per cent, a slightly slower pace than the June reading of 1.4 per cent.

    “In the wacky world of Canada’s monthly employment numbers, July came up with another head scratcher, with some big headlines but some disappointments in the fine print,” CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld wrote Friday in a research note to clients.

    Shenfeld added that there are “lots of reasons to question just how good the data really are here.”

    But overall he said the report contained a “good” set of numbers that will keep markets guessing whether the Bank of Canada will introduce its next interest rate hike in September or October. CIBC predicts the next rate increase will land in October as the central bank continues to proceed cautiously along its rate-hiking path.

    Bank of Montreal chief economist Douglas Porter also wrote about the jobs numbers in a research note: “Today’s job report is a classic case of ‘nice headlines, shame about the details.’ While we would still give the overall result a passing grade, it’s tough to get overly enthusiastic.”

    By industry, the goods-producing sector lost 36,500 jobs in July, with a notable loss of 18,400 positions in manufacturing and a drop of 12,300 in construction.

    The services sector saw strong gains last month with a combined net increase of 90,500 jobs, which was led by 30,700 positions in health care and social assistance as well as 36,500 in education.

    Both Shenfeld and Porter underlined those big gains in education as signs the July numbers are likely weaker than they look at first glance. Porter noted that, in the past, summertime education employment boosts have often been reversed in the ensuing months.

    National Bank of Canada chief economist Stefane Marion wrote in a report Friday that the public sector is the “only game in town” so far in 2018. Marion’s research note was titled: “Where are the private sector jobs?”

    Across the provinces, Ontario gained 60,600 jobs — all in part-time work — and the unemployment rate dropped 0.5 percentage points to 5.4 per cent for its lowest reading since July 2000. The education jobs fuelled much of the gain in Ontario, Statistics Canada said.

    Employment also rose in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, while Saskatchewan and Manitoba lost jobs last month.

    More women between the ages of 25 and 54 years old were working in July as the category saw a gain of 30,300 jobs.

    The youth unemployment rate — representing workers aged 15 to 24 years old — fell to 11.1 per cent, down from 11.7 per cent in June. The report said the main cause of the drop was due to the fact fewer young people were looking for work.

    Compared with a year earlier, overall employment was up 1.3 per cent following the addition of 245,900 jobs for an increase driven by 210,500 new full-time positions.

    In an interview, Shenfeld added that “for the past year, Canadians have certainly been enjoying a very solid labour market with a low unemployment rate and that’s still true in the latest data.”

    Follow @AndyBlatchford on Twitter

    Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press


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    Canada should do more to help women refugees worldwide: Oxfam Canada

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  • OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau’s self-proclaimed feminist government could and should be doing more to address gender-specific challenges faced by female refugees affected by wars and displacement.

    That’s according to a new report from Oxfam Canada, which takes a close look at how Canada provides international humanitarian aid and the gaps that exist when it comes to outcomes for women and girls in refugee situations.

    Canada has made great strides when it comes to making gender equality and feminism a key priority of its domestic and foreign policy agenda, but more can be done to help women being disproportionately affected by global crisis, the report says.

    “Currently, Canada’s international assistance funding is out of step with its ambition to be a world leader on gender equality and feminist aid and foreign policy,” the report states.

    “The fact that Canada’s international assistance spending is at a near historical low, merely reaching 0.26 per cent of gross national income, as compared to the UN aid target of 0.7 per cent, undermines its credibility and leadership on the international stage.”

    The study zeros in on areas where women in conflict zones are not getting the help they need or where efforts to improve gender equality in these areas are not being fully realized.

    Some of the findings are unsettling, including a statistic showing 25 to 50 per cent of maternal deaths in refugee camps are caused by unsafe abortions and related complications.

    This is due, in part, to a lack of adequate access to sexual and reproductive health services, which are often seen as a “second-tier” priority when people are forced to flee their homes due to conflict.

    “Our argument is that services are totally life-saving when you consider, for example, that last year 500 women and girls died during emergencies every single day from pregnancy and childbirth complications simply because sexual and reproductive health and rights weren’t a priority,” said Brittany Lambert, a women’s rights policy and advocacy specialist with Oxfam Canada.

    “These things should be prioritized from the very inception of these humanitarian responses and could save many lives.”

    Oxfam Canada also published findings last month following a series of interviews, focus groups and surveys of hundreds of women and men from the host and refugee communities in Bangladesh, suggesting Rohingya women and girls who survived genocide in Myanmar are facing new risks in refugee camps, notably when it comes to access to water and sanitation facilities.

    Some women are choosing to go hungry and thirsty and are restricting their children’s diets in order to limit their trips to these facilities to reduce risks of physical and sexual abuse and harassment, according to this research. 

    The organization is calling on Canada to develop a 10-year plan to achieve the United Nations aid target of 0.7 per cent of national income.

    It also wants Canada to establish a dedicated pool of 15 per cent of all its humanitarian aid to be specifically earmarked to address the needs of women and girls.

    “Right now the way Canada’s funding system works is that humanitarian assistance is aligned with the global humanitarian system priorities, which are things like shelter, water, food — but gender is not one of those categories,” Lambert said.

    “Women’s needs can be inserted into these categories but there are really limited funding opportunities to actually undertake programming that address gender inequality as a main goal so that’s why we’re calling for a stand alone pool of funding where Canada could actually fund this kind of feminist programming.”

    In addition, Oxfam Canada says the Trudeau government should take firmer action to ensure weapons do not end up in the hands of those who commit gender-based violence.

    Several international aid agencies, including Amnesty International, have said loopholes exist in Canada’s arms export policy that would allow arms sales to the United States — weapons which could end up being transferred to countries that abuse human rights.

    The government has announced several measures aimed at championing women’s issues both at home and abroad, including launching a feminist international assistance policy and a national action plan on women and government. Canada also disbursed more than $68 million in humanitarian assistance to support sexual and reproductive health needs in 2017-18.

    In addition, Canada has committed to increase its foreign aid effort by $2 billion over five years, which will bring total assistance to nearly $6 billion by 2021, says Global Affairs Canada.

    “We agree with the report that we need to ensure that the voices of civil society partners and affected communities, particularly women and girls, are included throughout the humanitarian response,” said the statement from Global Affairs Canada.

    “That is why Canada expects its partners to directly consult affected communities, and ensure that women and girls, in particular, are involved in the design of initiatives and decision-making processes that affect their lives.”

     

    —Follow @ReporterTeresa on Twitter.

     

    Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


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    MP pays tribute to baby daughter on pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day

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  • OTTAWA — Conservative MP Tom Kmiec choked back tears as he recalled his infant daughter in a heartfelt speech in the House of Commons to mark national pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day.

    Kmiec’s daughter Lucy-Rose died in August when she was only 39 days old.

    MPs from all parties struggled to maintain their own composure as an emotional Kmiec used a member’s statement as an opportunity to thank the medical staff who cared for Lucy-Rose, the neighbours who brought his family food and support, and the parliamentarians who sent their condolences.

    Lucy-Rose died of Trisomy 13, a genetic condition that leaves babies with severe intellectual and physical disabilities. Also called Patau syndrome, only five to 10 per cent of babies diagnosed with it will live past their first year.

    “On this day, let us grieve with the parents who have lost a child, as well as the siblings who lost a lifelong best friend,” Kmiec said.

    Speaker Geoff Regan said he hoped Kmiec could see that love and support from the parliamentary family was around him.

    About one in five pregnancies in Canada ends in miscarriage.

    Congenital malformations and chromosomal abnormalities are the leading cause of death for babies under the age of one year. In 2016, 404 infants died of a congenital abnormality, according to Statistics Canada.

    In all, more than 1,700 babies died before their first birthday in 2016, 75 per cent of them before they were one month old.

    On Tuesday, the House of Commons human resources committee is starting to study the impact on parents of the death of an infant, including possible updates to parental leave programs and benefits.

    The study comes after a motion from Conservative MP Blake Richards, who identified shortcomings in the parental leave program when it comes to being compassionate to parents who are grieving.

    Kmiec urged MPs to hug their kids the next time they go home.

    “If they are old and have their own (kids), hug them anyway, even if they protest,” he said. “Life is too short and none of us knows when our time will come.”

    The Canadian Press


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