November 23, 2003 When it launched a new system for regularly announcing its decisions regarding the overnight rate of interest in December 2000, the Bank of Canada had a number of key objectives in mind. These included reduced uncertainty in financial markets, greater focus on the Canadian rather than the U.S. economic environment, more emphasis on the medium-term perspective of monetary policy, and increased transparency regarding the Bank's interest rate decisions. Evidence to date suggests that all four objectives have been met to a substantial degree. Fixed announcement dates have provided regular opportunities for the Bank to communicate its views on the state of the Canadian economy to the public. This has helped to improve understanding of the broad direction of monetary policy and of the rationale behind the Bank's policy decisions although the decisions themselves are not always fully anticipated.
November 22, 2003 In the year and a half leading up to mid-2003, both employment and labour force participation increased at an unusually rapid pace compared to domestic economic activity. Gains in employment were unusually large, relative to output growth, compared to gains in total hours worked. This is explained by a faster rate of increase in the participation rate of the 55 and older age group, many of whom opted for part-time employment. This shift in the composition of employment contributed to a reduction in the length of the average workweek in 2002. As a result, labour input progressed at a rate that was markedly slower than for employment and more in line with its historical relationship to output growth. The authors anticipate that the 55 and older age group will continue to participate strongly in the labour force, but that as the economy rebounds and uncertainty diminishes, the cyclical component in the growth of part-time work should diminish and that of full-time employment increase. Employment growth should moderate in relation to output growth and there may be a cyclical rebound in labour productivity as total hours worked increases during the initial recovery in output growth.
November 21, 2003 Innovations in basic information technologies, in payment applications, and in the availability of global markets, as well as substantial changes in financial sector policy, have fundamentally changed how the retail payments system in Canada operates. Principally, the volume and types of electronic payments have grown, and there is increased participation by diverse groups of financial and non-financial institutions as providers of retail payment services. The resulting policy problem for payment systems is how best to benefit from efficiency gains while managing payment risks. O'Connor examines the effect of the technological and legislative changes and the initiatives developed by the public and private sectors in such areas as the market arrangements for services; customer risks and costs for settling large-value retail payments; the security of payment information and the efficiency with which it is transmitted; and the effects of differing regulatory regimes on competition among providers of retail payment services.
November 20, 2003 Effective 1 November 2003, the Bank of Canada abandoned its practice of backdating the results of settlement of payments through the Automated Clearing Settlement System (ACSS). It has adopted instead a system of "next-day" settlement under which the results of the settlement process will appear on the central bank's books on the day the items actually settle in the ACSS. Since July 1986, settlement of these items had occurred at noon the day after items were presented for clearing, but the results were recognized on the Bank's books the previous day, through backdating, or "retroactive" settlement. The new system should simplify the payments process and improve the reporting of settlement risk, as well as promote cost-effectiveness within the payments systems. ACSS participants have agreed among themselves to implement an interest-compensation mechanism in order to avoid imposing a float charge on their customer base.