Statistics Canada is being urged to produce a clearer picture of underemployment in Canada to provide a better understanding of what it will take to get frustrated part-time workers into steady, full-time jobs.
A research report timed to coincide with Thursday's launch of a long-term Parliamentary study into youth unemployment argues Canadians lack key information that is available in the United States and elsewhere.
The report by Canadian Labour Congress senior economist Angella MacEwen argues the public's heavy focus on Statistics Canada's monthly job numbers and unemployment rates do not tell the full story of the nation's job market. Ms. MacEwen said better data on underemployment would shed more light on the reasons it is a more serious problem among women and youth.
"As work patterns change, with greater use of part-time employees and other forms of precarious labour, the headline unemployment rate becomes less and less useful on its own," the report states. "The labour force is comprised of far more than simply employed and unemployed workers."
On Friday, Statistics Canada will release its job numbers for February. Last month's release announced that employment rose 29,000 in January and the unemployment rate dropped to 7 per cent from 7.2 per cent. The youth unemployment rate was 13.9 per cent.
The underemployed includes part-time workers who would like to work more hours, but can also include people working in jobs that do not match their skill or education level.
Statistics Canada breaks these down into "visible" and "invisible" underemployed, and most data are focused on the visible underemployed, as it is much harder to measure the number of people whose jobs do not fit their skills.
The CLC report says the public does not receive clear data on the actual number of underemployed people or a detailed explanation of why some people are underemployed, resulting in a lack of attention on the broader issue.
Jason Gilmore, Statistics Canada's acting chief of current labour analysis and special projects, said the agency hopes to publish more data.
"It is on our list of future development to regularly produce and publish more internationally comparable indicators of underemployment, but we do not yet have an established timeline for that," Mr. Gilmore said in an email, adding that Statistics Canada can provide the data upon request.
The House of Commons Finance Committee is holding the first of 10 days of meetings on Thursday on youth unemployment. The study, which was proposed by New Democrat MP Peggy Nash, will begin with testimony from youth leaders and the CLC as well as senior officials from Statistics Canada and Employment and Social Development.
Conservative MP and committee member Andrew Saxton said his party is seeking ideas for the 2015 budget and feedback related to the Canada Job Grant, which will be launched this year.
"As long as there's youth looking for jobs, there's more work to be done," he said.
In an interview, Ms. Nash said she hopes the study will look at the need for better data and touch on whether the Canada Job Grant might cause problems by squeezing out existing provincial programs that train young Canadians.
Ms. Nash said the study should show that while the Conservative government boasts that more than a million new jobs have been created since July, 2009, the details are not as rosy.
"We're trying to get a truer picture of what is actually going on," she said. "We know that the job situation is imbalanced in the country."