rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Data, data, everywhere: National Household Survey's Portrait of Canada's labour force

Please support our coverage of democratic movements and become a supporting member of rabble.ca.

So, the National Household Survey's Portrait of Canada's labour force is out, and I can't help but think of Donald Rumsfeld's known unknowns. We know that we don't know anything about those who didn't respond to the survey, or how they might be different from those that did. We also know that there are some discrepancies in terms of labour force data even at the national level when comparing the NHS to the LFS.

We know that the sample size for the NHS was 4.5 million households, with a 68.6 per cent response rate. The LFS only samples 56,000 households, but it is mandatory and conducted by specialized interviewers. And, finally, the LFS excludes persons living on reserve & in Aboriginal communities, and full-time members of the Canadian Forces, but the NHS does not. So which one gives us better labour market information?

So the NHS estimates nearly 900,000 fewer jobs in May 2011 than the seasonally unadjusted data from the LFS, which results in a significantly lower employment rate. Has the labour market been doing worse than we think? Has the recovery been even more sluggish than the LFS numbers have led us to believe?

Which survey is more reliable right now isn't even the biggest concern. If we are concerned about the NHS not reaching groups based on their education level, language, immigrant status, or more, then the accuracy of weighting for the LFS is bound to become less reliable as well. In 2011 the LFS was re weighted and revised based on the 2006 census, in 2016 the LFS will be reweighted and revised based on the 2011 NHS. Sam Boshra at Economic Justice covers this issue well here.

It's okay to know what we don't know -- but I'm worried about thinking that we know something that "just ain't so".

Thank you for reading this story...

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all. But media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our only supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help.

If everyone who visits rabble and likes it chipped in a couple of dollars per month, our future would be much more secure and we could do much more: like the things our readers tell us they want to see more of: more staff reporters and more work to complete the upgrade of our website.

We’re asking if you could make a donation, right now, to set rabble on solid footing in 2017.

Make a donation.Become a monthly supporter.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.