10/5/12

Is the attack on public sector workers justified?

Dwight Duncan has justified the government's proposal to remove collective bargaining rights in the broader public sector by suggesting that the private sector has had it much worse. Earlier, I looked at wage settlements as likely the best test to determine if this was true (it wasn't).

But one could argue that jobs are also a key measure.

So, has the loss of jobs been much worse in the private sector than in the public sector?

This turns partly on the start date chosen. So let's look at it from a variety of start dates.

If we start at the pre-precession high in private sector employment in Ontario, the start date would be September 2008, when private sector employment was 4.433 million, according to Stats Can.  As of September 2012 private sector employment sat at 4.414 million, a decline of about 0.6%. Over the same period  the public sector has grown slightly, increasing from 1.302 million to 1.332 million.

From this measure, the public sector has done better but there is not a whole lot in it.

If examined from the public sector high, the start month is April 2011. Public sector employment has declined since then from 1.362 million to 1.332 million, a loss of 30,000 jobs, a 2.2% decline.  Over the same period, private sector employment has increased from 4.351 million to 4.405 million, an increase of 54,000 jobs, a 1.2% increase.

From this perspective the public sector has done worse than the private sector by a fair margin.

So while there are some differences between public and private sector employment, overall there is little evidence to back up Duncan's claim, either by looking at wage settlements or employment in the public and private sectors. Indeed, private sector jobs are now increasing, while public sector jobs are now decreasing.

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