While a lot of you might find statistics boring, occasionally you will run across a statistic that leaps up and bites you.
Doug Elliott, publisher of SaskTrends monitor and probably Saskatchewan foremost statistical expert, is always a good source for such statistics.
In an interview this summer, Elliott came up with just such a statistic... albeit one that is a little foreboding for rural Saskatchewan.
According to Elliott, in the last five years, Saskatoon has created 21,500 jobs and Regina has created 21,000. The entire rest of the province, however, has only added 2,500 more people to the workforce.
Of course, you know what they say about lies, damn lies and statistics. But this particular piece of information isn’t exactly the kind of percentage information easily manipulated — the kind that governments use to make themselves look good or that oppositions use to make governments look bad.
The numbers are real ... even if they really don’t seem to make much sense. Even Elliott is somewhat at a loss for an explanation as to why the difference is so great.
After all, while Regina and Saskatoon are growing and certain smaller communities are suffering, the core industries of the Saskatchewan economy — oil, potash and agriculture — are all in rural Saskatchewan. One would assume that these rural-based industry that are creating a lot of local jobs.
Elliott is also puzzled by Statistics Canada’s data suggesting agricultural jobs are on the increase.
As we all know, the numbers of farmers continue to dwindle — even in these profitable times when net receipts on the farm have doubled in the past five years. The statistician speculates it may have something to do with people declaring themselves farmers or farm employees — at least on a part-time basis.
As for the incredibly low job creation numbers outside Regina and Saskatoon, that still is a bit of a puzzler... unless you examine all the statistical information carefully.
For example, if you look carefully at the oil industry, you will see new well drilling is down right now. Moreover, some of those doing the drilling are Alberta workers who aren’t full time Saskatchewan residents.
Similarity, while there are more jobs in potash mine construction, these, too, are often being performed by contractors and workers who don’t necessarily reside in rural Saskatchewan. As for the potash industry itself, the glut in production means that there aren’t a lot of new, full-time miners being hired.
Elliott said it’s also important to note what kind of jobs are now being created in Saskatchewan and who is filling them. Many are in the service sector (sales, restaurants, etc.) Those jobs are often being filled by new arrivals to the country. And it is the cities that are getting most of these jobs.
Of course, a lot of you will point to the success of several communities in attracting their own new arrivals. Those from Moosomin, Weyburn and particularly Estevan where the vacancy rate is much lower than either Regina or Saskatoon might assume the statistics are simply wrong.
But Elliott noted that the statistical information covers the entire remainder of the province, meaning that it takes into account every other community losing population and workers.
As the population ages and birthrate slows, not only does a community shrink but what also shrinks are their service jobs (teachers, health care workers, etc.)
This has to be a worry for the Saskatchewan Party government — both economically and politically.
After all, rural Saskatchewan is still its base. And it seems that it isn’t creating many jobs in its base.
Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.