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March 3, 2009

Welfare Caseload Continues Upward Spiral

If anyone doubts that B.C. is in a recession, just look at three economic indicators: 1) welfare caseload, 2) EI claims and 3) job losses reported in the Labour Force Survey. The welfare statistics for January were posted to the Ministry's website with no fanfare, but they are shocking. The category of temporary assistance expected to work, increased by 36.5% in January 2009 relative to January 2008. The caseload in that category has been increasing since June 2008, but what is shocking is that the rate of increase has been accelerating. The total income assistance caseload, including disability assistance, is up by 10.5% in January 2009 relative to January 2008.

For January, the Labour Force Survey showed that B.C. lost 35,100 jobs (68,100 full-time jobs). It will be unlucky Friday, March 13th, before we see the Labour Force Survey for February, but no one is expecting the employment numbers to have increased. The increase in the welfare caseload is also consistent with Employment Insurance claimants, where the increase for B.C. in December of 33.2% was the highest in the nation.

B.C.'s Legislature has yet to pass the Campbell government's budget, yet already economic indicators suggest that the budget is unduly optimistic. In today's Vancouver Sun, Vaughn Palmer reported on planning by the deputy ministers' council to cut public service jobs. With that kind of detail coming out before the May 12th election, what do you think Campbell's real plans are if he succeeds in winning a third mandate? We might look back on 2002 with its brutal cuts to the social safety net and the breaking of contracts as minor compared to what an arrogant premier with a third term does.


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