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U.S. labor market outpaces Canada’s: Study

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On Monday, the United States will celebrate Labor Day – and a new study shows that, while U.S. workers have much to celebrate, Canadians are not quite as fortunate. A new study about the Canadian economy dovetails with a report earlier this week that poor Americans are better off economically than average citizens of other advanced, but less economically free, OECD nations.

The Fraser Institute, Canada’s premier think tank on economic matters, analyzed the labor market of each of the 50 U.S. states and 10 Canadian provinces. Researchers ranked all 60 regions based on eight factors including employment growth, long-term unemployment, and the number of workers involuntarily working part time.

“Overall, Canada underperformed relative to the United States,” the study, which came out Thursday, found. “All Canadian provinces are ranked in the bottom half of the 60 jurisdictions, including the traditional economic engines of Canada”: Alberta and Ontario.

The think tank lamented Canada’s relative position to its southern neighbor. “This Labor Day, as we remember that strong labor markets mean more opportunities and higher living standards for workers, the stronger performance of U.S. states should concern all Canadians,” said Steve Lafleur, senior policy analyst at the Fraser Institute and a co-author of the report, “including policymakers.”

The Fraser Institute’s concern for Canadians’ prosperity is praiseworthy, as far as it goes. However, lack of work is a deeper issue.

Work is one way that each person “fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes work as “a duty” by which the worker can participate in “the work of creation by subduing the earth” and “contribute to the abundance that will benefit all” humanity. For most people, work is the primary “the means of providing for his life and that of his family, and of serving the human community.”

When labor markets break down or become sluggish, their assortative function leaves the person without a means for his development and sustenance. Labor markets, the Fraser Institute explains, “are the mechanism through which we allocate one of our most valuable and productive resources: human work, effort, creativity, and ingenuity. Labour markets match human skills, supplied by individuals seeking to earn a living, with the demand for labour by firms, governments, and households.”

Unemployment is a silent social catastrophe. “There is no worse material poverty, I am keen to stress,” Pope Francis has said, “than the poverty that prevents people from earning their bread and deprives them of the dignity of work.” Left unchecked, one of his predecessors wrote, it “can become a real social disaster.”

Work itself benefits the worker and blesses the community. Policies that facilitate job growth and investment – and the prosperity they create – should be encouraged. Labor, and the smooth functioning of the market that makes it possible, is well worth celebrating.

(Photo credit: The White House. This photo has been cropped. Public domain.)

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Rev. Ben Johnson Rev. Ben Johnson is Senior Editor at the Acton Institute.

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