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

10:08  14 september  2017
10:08  14 september  2017 Source:   Maclean's

Albertans bring home more than average, census statistics show

  Albertans bring home more than average, census statistics show Albertans bring home more than average, census statistics showAlberta families bring home more money than families in other provinces, new 2016 census data shows, but one economist says that comes with a big caveat.

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

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

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Census: 1.2 million children live in poverty

  Census: 1.2 million children live in poverty Census: 1.2 million children live in povertyOf those, 1.2 million Canadians are children under 18 — including their 10-month-old daughter, Isabelle.

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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.

Census: 1.2 million children live in poverty

  Census: 1.2 million children live in poverty Census: 1.2 million children live in povertyOf those, 1.2 million Canadians are children under 18 — including their 10-month-old daughter, Isabelle.

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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.

'We got lucky nobody died': Multi-vehicle crash in Surrey, B.C., sends 3 to hospital

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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.

Man dead after head-on crash in Abbotsford, B.C.

  Man dead after head-on crash in Abbotsford, B.C. Man dead after head-on crash in Abbotsford, B.C. A head-on collision between two vehicles on Whatcom Road in Abbotsford, B.C, Friday night has killed one man and left another in hospital. Police say the crash happened at 9:30 p.m. PT near the intersection with Lower Sumas Mountain. In a written statement, Sgt. Judy Bird said a 21-year-old male driver was travelling southbound in a Dodge Charger when he hit the 33-year-old male driver of a Chevrolet Cavalier.Both drivers were taken to hospital, Bird said, but the 33-year-old man in the Cavalier died of his injuries overnight.

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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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  Facebook digital ads figures differ from census data: analyst <p>Figures Facebook Inc gives advertisers about its potential reach differ from U.S. census data, an investment analyst said on Tuesday, renewing questions about how tech companies verify the value of their digital marketing space.</p>Facebook, Alphabet Inc's Google and other internet companies have faced persistent scrutiny from advertisers about how many people watch ads online and how to measure their views.

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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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