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Money New census income data conceal the scars of the oil crash

10:08  14 september  2017
10:08  14 september  2017 Source:   macleans.ca

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While the latest census figures confirm that Canada fared well during the global recession, the picture of household financial health is far from complete.

RELATED: New census income data conceal the scars of the oil crash . (Not live): Recommended reading and updates on our various collections of the Maclean's Archives; everything Maclean's has ever published—more than 3,400 issues and 100,000 articles.

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We received confirmation on Wednesday that Canada had a pretty good crisis.

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READ: New census income data conceal the scars of the oil crash . This increased federal rate comes after most provinces also raised their top rate, which means in every province the top personal income tax rate is now close to or even more than 50 per cent.

According to new data from Statistics Canada, the poorest Canadian families have seen big gains in the past few years. As StatCan noted, its survey captures life before oil prices collapsed at the end of 2014 and into 2015. If StatsCan were collecting data for a census today, incomes on the Prairies

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The Great Recession sunk the United States and Europe into extended economic funks that only now are beginning to fade, depending on how you evaluate what’s happening in post-Brexit Britain.

Canada’s economy, on the other hand, went on a run. Commodity prices soared, as China plowed hundreds of billions of dollars into its economy, choosing a massive debt over economic and social stability.

Canadians—and especially Western Canada—got richer on the back of China’s largesse. Statistics Canada’s latest release from the 2015 census shows the country’s median income increased 10.8 per cent from 2010, to $70,336. The gains were concentrated in provinces that have valuable stuff under the soil; households in Nunavut and Saskatchewan experienced the biggest positive change in circumstances.

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READ: Canada’s economy is really overachieving right now

Census data inevitably lags; it’s takes time to process all that information. Still, the latest figures generally offer a reasonable approximation of current conditions. This is Canada, not a roaring Asian society; things don’t change that much year to year.

Except in the two years since StatsCan completed its latest census, Canada’s economic circumstances have changed a great deal. Our dreams of becoming an energy superpower have been replaced by nightmares of losing our privileged access to the U.S. economy. As StatCan noted, its survey captures life before oil prices collapsed at the end of 2014 and into 2015. If StatsCan were collecting data for a census today, incomes on the Prairies and in Newfoundland and Labrador would look much different.

The commodity boom confused Canada’s macro-economic story. The headline numbers made it look like we were getting rich, but that really depended on where you lived. Median household incomes increased only 3.8 percent in Ontario over the decade through 2015, and by 8.9 percent in Quebec, the second-slowest growth after Ontario. These provinces represent the core of Canada’s industrial economy, and those factories hadn’t done enough to win markets in Asia ahead of the financial crisis.

Census: 1.2 million children live in poverty

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Get income data for New Jersey zip codes on this site. The following data are the most current income statistics for New Jersey from the US Census Bureau, are in 2016 inflation adjusted dollars and are from the American Community Survey 2016 5-year estimates.

For example in 2011, as oil prices rose as a result of the inflation created by the Fed, Ben Bernanke and President Obama blamed the rise on oil speculators, and The opposite is true. Historian Benjamin Anderson describes Hoover’s reaction to the 1929 crash as being “Hoover’s New Deal.”

When the U.S. economy crashed, so did the business models of countless manufacturing companies in Ontario and Quebec. Factory employment in Canada decreased by 22 percent over the decade. Some of that has come back over the past year, but few predict that Canada ever will be a manufacturing powerhouse again. There is a reason Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz and others have begun focusing on the country’s advantages in services.

Missing from the latest StatsCan numbers is an analysis of income inequality. The agency did release figures on the “low-income rate,” which was little changed from the previous decade at 14.2 percent. (StatsCan defines low income as half the median household income.) Some may find that figure troubling, as you might have hoped a commodity boom and the all the low-skill employment one offers would have made a bigger dent on poverty. The low-income rate surely is higher today, given the tens of thousands of jobs that have disappeared in the oil patch.

Also missing from the StatsCan report is a word about the most important macro-economic concern of the moment: household debt.

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Today’s Census Bureau report on income , poverty and health insurance coverage in 2014 shows that with the exception of non-Hispanic white households, median Solid lines are actual CPS ASEC data ; dashed lines denote historical values imputed by applying the new methodology to past income trends.

READ: After weathering the Great Recession, can Canada avoid a debt crisis?

Canadians leveraged those rising incomes to the max, driving private debt to record levels when measured against disposable incomes. Most of this debt was used to chase surging house prices, which grew considerably faster than incomes. Teranet and National Bank also released their latest monthly home price index on Sept. 13. Their historical data shows that home prices increased more than 80 percent between 2005 and 2015; the gain from January 2005 to August was more than 130 percent.

Some economists say the gap between incomes and home prices doesn’t matter, or is less significant than it so often is made out to be. They point to the value of the assets that all that debt has helped purchase, which outweighs whatever households owe their creditors. And these economists have a point, provided the value of those assets doesn’t collapse.

Still, the census data describe an economy that was muddling along, not one that was performing as well as we might have thought at the time. The increase in median household income in the most recent decade was only marginally better than the previous one, when incomes rose 9.2 percent. (They declined 1.8 percent in the decade before that.)

But maybe the bigger tell comes from what happened to household incomes in the U.S. during the same period. According to U.S. census data, median household income rose 22 percent between 2005 and 2015, even as the economy suffered through an historic economic collapse.

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Of course, GDP and jobs data released this year are more recent than the income data just published by the Census Bureau. That said, these new data offer a strong indication, and some useful context, on how American families are really doing.

So Canada might have had a good crisis, but there is reason to doubt that we took full advantage of our relative good fortune.

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