Archived – Program activity 1: Economic statistics

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Program activity description Footnote 1

The Economic Statistics program's purpose is to create a trusted, relevant and comprehensive source of information on the entire spectrum of Canada's economy in order to: inform public debate on economic issues; support economic policy development, implementation and evaluation; and guide business decision making. It is the primary source of information for developing the country's fiscal and monetary policies and for studying the economic evolution of Canadian industries and of regions. The information provides for informed public debate on current economic issues of concern and interest. The outputs are vital to research and to economic policy development, implementation and evaluation by a number of federal departments, such as the Bank of Canada, Finance Canada, Industry Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and Transport Canada, as well as by provincial and territorial governments; and they are extensively used by the private sector for business planning and decision making. The programs' data also support statutory requirements and regulatory instruments. Statistics produced range from gross domestic product, production, costs, sales, productivity and prices for industrial sectors to the flows and stocks of fixed and financial capital assets, international trade and finance, environmental issues related to pollution, natural assets, and activities to reduce environmental damage, and the extent of foreign ownership in Canada's economy.

Table 1 2011–-2012 Financial resources ($ thousands)
Planned spending Total authorities Footnote 1 Actual spending Footnote 1
191,102 201,739 184,679
Table 2 2011–-2012 Human resources (full-time equivalents [FTEs])
Planned Actual Difference
2,266 2,001 265
Table 3 Performance indicators for economic statistics
Expected results Performance indicators Footnote 1 Targets Actual results
Statistics produced by Statistics Canada are available through a wide range of easily accessible media formats and venues. Page views of electronic publications—number and annual percentage change Annual increase exceeds 5% Page views in 2011–2012 were down 10% from 2010–2011.The overall decrease in access to electronic publications appears to be the result of decreased traffic to old (archived) products, partly offset by the increased number of economic publications released over the past year.

Page views ('000), fiscal years 2007–2008 to 2011–2012:
  • 2007–2008: 2,209
  • 2008–2009: 2,989
  • 2009–2010: 2,928
  • 2010–2011: 3,605
  • 2011–2012: 3,237
Percentage changes, fiscal years 2007–2008 to 2011–2012:
  • 2007–2008: 32
  • 2008–2009: 35
  • 2009–2010: -2
  • 2010–2011: 23
  • 2011–2012: -10
Success in finding information on the Statistics Canada website 65% of visitors surveyed found what they were looking for 70% of visitors surveyed found what they were looking for.
  • 2010–2011: 62%
  • 2011–2012: 70%
Ease of finding information on the Statistics Canada website 70% of visitors surveyed would say they were satisfied 70% of visitors surveyed indicated it was somewhat/very easy to find the information sought.
  • 2010–2011: 65%
  • 2011–2012: 70%
Satisfaction with website New indicator 67% of visitors surveyed who were seeking Economic Statistics information were satisfied/very satisfied with the website.
Canadians are aware of the availability of these statistics and of their high quality, and of Statistics Canada's professionalism and non-partisanship. Data series downloaded from the CANSIM online database—number and annual percentage change Annual increase exceeds 5% Indicators are not available as Statistics Canada is in a transition year moving to free CANSIM.
Percentage of statistical outputs that meet set levels of sampling accuracy 95.0% of major statistical outputs meet set levels of accuracy The sampling accuracy of 95.8% of major statistical outputs from the Economic Statistics program was within set objectives.

Sampling accuracy within set objectives, 2007–2008 to 2011–2012:
  • 2007–2008: 96.5
  • 2008–2009: 95.5
  • 2009–2010: 96.0
  • 2010–2011: 96.8
  • 2011–2012: 95.8
Organizational efficiency Business surveys using tax/ administrative data—number and percentage change Continual increase 48 business surveys—22% of the total—used tax/administrative data in 2011–2012. The number of business and agricultural surveys using administrative data has reached a plateau. Statistics Canada is now enabling the use of more administrative data by conducting evaluations in the areas of agriculture and energy. The Agency is also negotiating partnerships with other federal departments to use other sources of administrative data in lieu of survey data.

Number of business surveys using tax/administrative data, fiscal years 2007–2008 to 2011–2012:
  • 2007–2008: 42
  • 2008–2009: 43
  • 2009–2010: 47
  • 2010–2011: 47
  • 2011–2012: 48
Percentage of business surveys using tax/administrative data, fiscal years 2007–2008 to 2011–2012:
  • 2007–2008: 19
  • 2008–2009: 20
  • 2009–2010: 22
  • 2010–2011: 22
  • 2011–2012: 22
Index of response burden hours 60 or less Index=65

Response burden continues to be a concern. Statistics Canada is looking for all possible opportunities to reduce burden through increased use of both administrative data and electronic data reporting.

Statistics Canada has reduced response burden by 35% since 1991. This is a considerable decrease.

Index of response burden hours (1991=100)
  • 2007–2008: 66
  • 2008–2009: 72
  • 2009–2010: 72
  • 2010–2011: 65
  • 2011–2012: 65

Performance summary and analysis of program activity

The range and quality of Canada's economic statistics, together with Statistics Canada's reputation for quality and integrity, ensure that there is international confidence in the economic data on the Canadian economy.

In this regard, the Economic Statistics program activity performed very well in 2011–2012. It continued to deliver high-quality economic statistics through its ongoing programs, and continued its renewal activities.

All major statistical outputs from the Economic Statistics program activity were released on time, adhering to the pre-established release schedule and accuracy targets.

Managing Canada's macroeconomy through monetary and fiscal policies is the responsibility of the federal government. The Bank of Canada, the Department of Finance and international organizations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expect that the national statistical office will produce, in general compliance with international standards, comprehensive and timely economic indicators to guide macroeconomic policy.

Statistics Canada is internationally recognized for producing a comprehensive, high-quality and timely set of economic indicators. A May 2010 report by the OECD Statistics Directorate listed 28 categories of statistical measures (four more than in 2009) that member countries are expected to maintain and report. Canada was reported as fully compliant in 22 categories, just behind Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Canada's compliance improved with the provision of capital stock by industry data, but declined in terms of consumer opinion surveys and business tendency surveys; these are not now part of Statistics Canada's program. Compliance was lacking with respect to monthly international trade in goods by Standard International Trade Classification sections and two new categories related to structural and business statistics. However, Statistics Canada responded rapidly in 2011 and early 2012 to new G20 data gaps-related requests to increase the frequency of financial accounts and balance sheet accounts to quarterly, and to provide new quarterly public sector debt tables. For both of these new submissions, timeliness exceeds the minimum required by the OECD.

Canada meets all IMF standards for measuring and disseminating national accounts and other economic statistics data, according to the annual report for 2011 on observance of the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS). Canada exceeds timeliness and frequency requirements for most SDDS datasets, in particular those that are the responsibility of Statistics Canada. Statistics Canada, the Bank of Canada and the Department of Finance are assessing the requirements for the new IMF SDDS Plus standard, which is scheduled to be introduced late in 2012.

Timeliness is measured as the lag between the end of the reference period and the dissemination of the earliest measures of GDP. Although Canada meets the IMF standard—it releases 60 days after the end of the reference period, 30 days ahead of the IMF limit—it appears to lag other G7 countries. This is because Canada releases GDP and the whole National Accounts database at once, providing users a timely estimate of GDP and, at the same time, helping users understand the overall context. Many other countries, such as the United States, put out early or 'flash' estimates of GDP (the headline variable) without the associated database. Most other G7 countries release the comprehensive database with a lag of 75 to 90 days from the end of the reference period.

Revisions to economic indicators are a normal consequence of the statistical compilation process. The first publication of quarterly real GDP based on income and expenditure is released approximately 60 days after the reference period, and provides timely information about the economy. These initial estimates are based on data available at the time of release. However, this information will, at times, be incomplete. Initial estimates are revised or changed in value as increasingly complete source data become available. Those initial estimates must be reliable or close approximations of the final estimate.

Canada has the second lowest revision rate of the G7 countries. However, there is a trade-off between timeliness and accuracy, measured in the average revisions of the GDP growth rate. Canadian users are often consulted for their views on these trade-offs and are usually satisfied with the status quo.

In 2012, Statistics Canada is implementing a comprehensive revision to the Canadian System of National Accounts data. This revision will incorporate the latest version of the international standard, the SNA2008. Statistics Canada is one of the first countries to implement the new standard.

The Economic Statistics program activity continued to use more and more administrative data in lieu of questionnaires.

Lessons learned

What worked well

Economic analysis activities included the development of a range of data products for the Agency: background industry-level databases used to produce the multifactor productivity program, linked business microdatabases essential to research on firm dynamics, new products for the National Accounts such as GDP by firm size and business innovation and strategy surveys. Statistics Canada researchers published extensively in the Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series, in other corporate publications and in external peer-reviewed journals. A new product, Economic Insights, designed to meet clients' current information needs, was very well received.

The unrest in Libya last year led to significant disruptions to the oil supply to world markets. Under treaty obligations, major oil-supplying nations were asked to increase their available oil supply to stabilize markets and to reduce the possibility of price shocks. To monitor the market response and to inform future decision making, key oil-producing nations, including Canada, were asked to collect accelerated statistics on refinery intake and petroleum stocks on an emergency basis. Monthly data were requested 15 days after the reporting period—significantly accelerating collection and reporting was required while, of course, maintaining data quality and completeness. The success in meeting this challenge, thanks to the efforts of staff in the energy statistics program, well exemplifies responsiveness and flexibility in addressing unexpected, high-priority client needs.

The current Canadian agriculture statistics program meets, to some extent, the minimum core requirement set out in both the World Program for the Census of Agriculture as well as the Global Strategy to Improve Agriculture and Rural Statistics, which were developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Bank and endorsed by the United Nations Statistical Commission. In 2011–2012, as part of its regular review process and in response to emerging issues, the Agriculture Division reviewed in depth the entire agriculture statistics program, including the Census of Agriculture. The purpose of the review was to determine whether the current agriculture statistics program met stakeholder needs, and whether respondent burden and costs could be further reduced. The review identified a number of activities to be explored, such as greater use of administrative data and remote sensing. Statistics Canada will evaluate the feasibility of these activities in the coming year.

What could be improved and what we are doing about it

Reducing response burden is a high priority for Statistics Canada. The Agency became an active and willing partner to the Red Tape Commission Secretariat. In response to commission recommendations, Statistics Canada has developed action plans to further reduce the administrative burden of its business surveys, reduce redundancy in requests for financial and payroll information by different departments or agencies, and review and update its communications materials and methods with survey respondents.


Footnote 1

A more detailed description of this program activity and planned release dates are available at Statistics Canada's program activity architecture and Release dates for major economic indicators.

Return to footnote 1 referrer