The Causes of Unemployment in Canada: A Review of the Evidence

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This paper reviews various competing theories of structural unemployment and considers whether they may be used to explain any of the rise in unemployment experienced by Canada during the most recent economic cycle. The central message that emerges is that one should take into account multiple possible structural explanations when forming judgments about the non-accelerating-inflation rate of unemployment (the NAIRU). Furthermore, the degree of uncertainty associated with existing empirical work suggests that one should allow for a range of NAIRU estimates in reaching an understanding of economic developments. A balanced assessment of the available methodologies suggests that the NAIRU has risen somewhat during the 1990s, mainly because of a steep rise in the rate of payroll taxation. Nevertheless, the paper concludes that this rise in the NAIRU is likely to be temporary, both because the payroll tax effect ought to be digestible over time and because some reforms to the unemployment insurance system have already been implemented.

Topic(s): Labour markets