Pundits and politicians are calling on the government to "do something" about the state of the Canadian labour market; these calls are presumably based on a perception that job growth is still weak. It's not clear upon which data this assessment is based. The data that would be most informative are no longer being collected, and the best available proxy that I can find suggests that rates of job creation are back to pre-recession levels.
This tells the story of how US employment fell and why it's struggling to recover. The drop in employment wasn't due to an increase in layoffs. Instead, the rate of hiring fell by some 20%, and it still hasn't recovered. The only reason why employment isn't falling further is that quit rates have fallen: more people are holding onto jobs that they might otherwise have left if there were better opportunities. So the problem in the US really is one of job creation.
When Statistics Canada releases its monthly Labour Force Survey, it publishes numbers for the stock of people who are employed and unemployed in a given month. This is of course a very important piece of information to have, but our understanding of the state of the labour market would be even better if we had data on the flows into and out of employment. There is no Canadian counterpart to the JOLTS - although it may be possible to tease some of this information from the micro data files.
A series that should be a good proxy for hires is the number of people who have been at their current job for a short period of time. The LFS provides numbers for those with various durations of job tenure, so I'm going to look at the shortest duration: those who have been at their current job for three months or less. If hiring rates move, this series should move as well (with a lag, of course).
The data are not seasonally adjusted. This matters, because much of the Canadian labour market is driven by seasonal factors. So the following bar charts group the data by month, so that deviations from the usual seasonal movements can be identified more easily.
The first thing to note is the scale of the vertical axis. In September 2011, 1.2m workers - 7% of the total - had been at their current jobs for less than three months. The scale of the gross job flows in and out of employment is one or two orders of magnitude greater than the net flows that make the headlines.
The monthly short-term tenure series started falling behind their usual levels in early 2009, and were significantly so from April 2009 through to January 2010. (Recall that this series reacts to changed in hiring with a lag of up to three months.) But since then, and certainly in 2011, the numbers have been roughly consistent with pre-recession levels.
The same narrative applies to the creation of full-time jobs:
I don't have much to say about part-time employment patterns, but for completeness, here is the graph:
My reading of the data of which I'm aware suggests that current rates of job creation are consistent with those observed during the last expansion, and have been so for a year or so. Calls for the government to "do something" are misplaced; the labour market has been functioning normally for quite some time now.