If B.C. Liberals want to bet heavily on the monthly Statistics Canada job-count sweepstakes, they have to expect to lose once in a while.
And they took a substantial hit Friday, with news that B.C. lost 10,900 jobs in the past month.
The government has been boasting lately of being the No. 1 job creator in the country. Even by the elastic standards they've been using to back that claim, it no longer applies. Jobs Minister Pat Bell was forced to concede the October losses drop B.C. to third place.
The horse race doesn't mean much to the average person. It's your job that's important, not the comparative difference between jobs here and elsewhere.
But Premier Christy Clark started emphasizing the contest because job creation is the fundamental part of her election platform.
The B.C. Jobs Plan is the be-all and end-all of Liberal strategy. So the StatsCan report, which is usually a fairly routine release, is going to become increasingly important. It's a monthly report card on how her government is doing on its single most important performance indicator.
Last month's StatsCan numbers showed B.C. gained 5,700 net new jobs. Bell said it's "proof the Jobs Plan is working."
If a 5,7000 job increase proves it's working, then does an 10,900-job drop prove it's not working?
"There are bound to be fluctuations in the monthly jobs numbers," he said, by way of a news release.
In a conference call later, Bell acknowledged it was a tough month. But like any gambler who's just lost a big hand, he was quick to stress that they're still ahead in the big game.
Even with the loss, B.C. is up 10,000 in the last three months, and 46,000 in the "14 months since the Jobs Plan was introduced," he said.
And he sounded skeptical about the validity of the statistics.
The statisticians "phone 6,000 people and extrapolate the data from that, so I'm not sure that there isn't an anomaly in this particular number. It does appear to be very large relative to what you would normally expect to see."
As well, the vast majority of the lost jobs are in manufacturing and "I do not recall seeing any information about any major manufacturing facilities that were either closed or curtailed.
"So we're going to be watching that number very closely in the coming month."
He isn't nearly as forthcoming with methodology worries when the numbers are positive.
Bell is particularly perturbed because the new count negates the progress report they issued on the Jobs Plan just a few weeks ago.
Clark said in the report her government had accomplished the vast majority of the initiatives and "we are leading the country in job growth."
She drove the point home at the party's convention just last weekend. Bold vision was "how we became No. 1 in job growth.
"B.C. is now ahead of every single province in Canada - after just one year."
Six days after that cheerful claim, the new numbers show B.C. is running third.
Still keen to bulk up the numbers, Bell said B.C. has created 56,500 new jobs - since February 2011.
But who keeps statistics on a 20month basis? The start date was picked out of the air to keep the number as high as possible.
The problem for the government is that it's heavily invested in a single measurement - jobs - which is a volatile metric that bounces all over the place.
Back in July, StatsCan reported an even bigger loss - 14,500 jobs. That one was blamed on a "national trend."
As long as the job-count produces plus numbers the Liberals are OK.
But when the numbers drop, they have to stretch themselves out of shape to explain why the Jobs Plan is still working, even if the numbers don't reflect that.
Just So You Know: Speaking of jobs, rancher Judy Guichon got a new one Friday. She was sworn in as lieutenant-governor at the legislature, where she is already warmly regarded.
She invented Beef Day at the legislature, a barbecue hosted by the B.C. cattle industry. Partisan rivalry vanishes as people stand in a long line for B.C.-grown steaks.
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