Statistics Canada withdrew its Labour Force Survey this Tuesday after identifying “human error” in the report. The report’s very low July employment numbers led StatsCan to re-evaluate it, and finally to decide to recall it for revision. The new report came out today, revealing that instead of gaining just 200 jobs, Canada actually gained 42,000. Whoops. So, how did Canada’s master statisticians fudged it this time. What was the ‘human error’? Statistics Canada has been able to “localize where [the human error] was in the process… There was something that should have been caught, that was not caught.” Yes, this is all very clear now. Well, to be honest it’s about as clear as what Stephen Harper means by “additional help” in his Iraq conflict discussions with Uncle Sam – just some money or full-on military action? In this case, it seems all we know is that those pesky sun-deprived nerds working the tiny cubicles down at StatsCan should have caught some problem, but missed it – it appears we’re not really sure what the problem was except that (1) someone appointed Joe Oliver to manage the country’s economy, and (2) 200 jobs produced doesn’t sound very good.
Or maybe it’s not actually the fault of Canada’s most brilliant statisticians. The real ‘human error’ might be in releasing this report. Instead of just waiting a few days and coming out with one set of ‘correct’ numbers, StatsCan might now appear to have mischievous intentions. Maybe they’re only changing the numbers because such low employment production could have negative economic impact, “…there’s a stat on this sheet that won’t make markets climb. So I’m taking it home to my workshop, m’dear. I’ll fix it up there, then I’ll bring it back here”. It seems wrong to expect such trickery from a government organization, but then look at this campaign trickery by our current federal government. Ok, so maybe this conspiracy theory talk really is out of whack and we should just admit that StatsCan made an error. With the amount of trouble that could be attributed to ‘human error’ in Canada’s political action – ranging from Justin Trudeau smoking blunts er’ day (ok, not really) to the results of the 2011 election – it’s unfair to be angry with StatsCan for its little mistake. We as Canadians have made many ‘human errors’ and, if StatsCan is truly correcting problematic data, we should probably be happy we have at least one government organization that is trying to be transparent and accountable.