Flying below the StatsCan radar


Sometimes, the political stars align perfectly.

So it was for Mayor David Henderson, who got to use one political asset to its fullest, only to have that asset lose all or most of its value little over a month after the election.

I refer to the mayor's advantageous use, during the recent election campaign, of Statistics Canada labour market numbers that place Brockville's unemployment levels below the radar.

For the fourth straight month, the estimated numbers for both the unemployment rate and unemployed residents have fallen below Statistics Canada’s “confidentiality threshold” of 1,500 people.

There's more to it than that, of course. The encouraging news is based in part on Statistics Canada's own rules, in part on the fact we have a low sample size to begin with, and also, to be fair, on genuinely low levels of unemployment.

This was a useful political asset for a mayor who ran on sound economic management and stability, an asset he used most recently during his inaugural address.

Four days later StatsCan announced its decision to stop measuring jobless data in the Brockville area.

The agency is redesigning its statistical sample and has to redistribute that sample across the province differently to account for growth elsewhere.

What this means is other areas grew much faster than we did over the past 10 years, so Statistics Canada has to pay attention to them more than to us.

Starting next year, not only the local jobless rate, but all of Brockville will be below the radar.

This does not negate the fact our unemployment levels have been at least low enough to bring StatsCan's confidentiality policies into play.

It is, however, a reminder that our sampling numbers have been low all along, low enough to produce some variability and unreliability and low enough, it turns out, to dip below the radar as a result of a routine tweak.

That puts things into a different perspective. It's great to know our jobless figures are lower than elsewhere, but more important to remember our growth rates are even lower than that, requiring a continued focus on generating growth.

Since the election is now over, let's all focus on that instead.