"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Federal presents

For some mysterious reason, St. John's municipal politicans and pundits at large are usually among those on the front guard of the "federal presence!" rallying cry.

Never mind the fact that Newfoundland and Labrador has a higher share of the federal civil service than it does of the overall national population, or that the federal workforce in the province is the fourth-highest, adjusted for population, of any province.

By gum, St. John's is peeved about the whole federal presence issue, and not shy about expressing it.

But here's something for people in the rest of the province to bear in mind the next time a St. John's municipal politician jumps on the soapbox over this issue: St. John's is gaining federal jobs.

Yip. Gaining.

This chart shows the total federal workforce (total of full-time equivalents or FTEs) in greater St. John's, and in the rest of the province, for the month of September* in each year:
This chart shows the same information, but as a percentage of total federal government employment in the province:
In the early 1990s, the "federal presence" was heavily tilted towards non-metropolitan areas of the province. When program restraint, and the privatization of some previously direct civil-service operations, resulted in a reduction in federal employment totals in the first half of the 1990s, by far and away most of the jobs were cut (or transferred to the private sector) in places outside the northeast Avalon.

Since bottoming out in the mid-1990s, St. John's has seen a steady increase in "federal presence" of roughly 1000 FTEs, to the point where the federal workforce is now (in 2010) larger, in sheer numbers, than ever before on record. As a share of the total "federal presence" in the province, the St. John's metro area now has about 70% of total federal employment, as measured in full-time equivalents.

This also happens to be about the same proportion of the provincial civil service which is based in St. John's, Mount Pearl, and other metro municipalities. (And no, contrary to popular belief, the St. John's area is not where most of the provincial population lives.)

The federal workforce in St. John's constitutes 2.6% of the metro population, 4.7% of the labour force, and 5.1% of employment.

By any of these three measures, that makes St. John's the city the fifth-most dependent on federal government employment after Ottawa-Gatineau (obviously, 19.5% of employment), Kingston (8.9%, bolstered by RMC and federal prisons), Halifax (7.9%,bolstered by the navy and some regional offices), and Victoria (5.6%, also a navy town).

* Data sources: Statistics Canada Tables 183-0003 (for St. John's metro area) and Table 183-0002 (province as a whole). Table 183-0003 provides an annual count for each Census Metropolitan Area during the month of September. Table 183-0002 provides counts for every province for each month; the September data from this latter table is used here to provide an apples:apples comparison.

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