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No wonder we aren’t hearing much about jobs in this election. The latest Statistics Canada figures reveal that Canada’s 1.2 million unemployed workers haven’t got much to hope for if either the Liberals or the Tories form a government after Jan. 23.

Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey figures, released yesterday (Jan. 6), show that the national unemployment rate rose to 6.5 per cent last December, up from 6.4 per cent in November, with 2,000 jobs lost overall.

It may not sound so bad, but it points to a trend, and that is not good news for over a million Canadians who want a job and can’t find one. Nor is good if you are a young worker. StatsCan data shows that youth unemployment is up to 11.8 per cent.

Economists were expecting 20,000 new jobs in December, so the loss suggests that the economy may be stalling. The recent loss of 9,500 jobs in construction – which has generated a lot of the new jobs in the last year – and the 100,000 jobs lost in manufacturing are especially troubling.

A significant downturn may lie ahead. And it might be characterized as a hollowing out of the economy in industrial cities like Oshawa, Windsor and Hamilton where big plant shutdowns threaten to permanently undermine community well being.

Overall employment in the public sector was up 52,500 jobs in 2005, mostly because of a big increase in workers employed in education. But 26,000 jobs in health and social services were lost (most of them in social services). This is especially bad news for women who form the bulk of the social service workforce.

And there is an increasing regional divide between have and have-not provinces. Half the job growth in the past year has been in Alberta and British Columbia and the other half in Ontario and Quebec.

Most other provinces have seen job losses over the past year and/or increases in their unemployment rates. Newfoundland’s unemployment rate (15.5 per cent) is almost four times the unemployment rate of Alberta (4.1 per cent).

The quality of the new jobs created last year left much to be desired, notes the Canadian Labour Congress. Only one in three (36 per cent) of the new jobs was a permanent paid job, while 25 per cent were temporary paid jobs, and 38 per cent were unstable and low-paid self-employment.

The Conservative policies of decentralization and cutting the role of the federal government will worsen these differences.