Economic Outlook

Companies are pocketing their fattest profits in more than 70 years, even as they complain about inflation

For the last several months, corporate executives have been loudly lamenting the rising cost of doing business due to supply-chain disruptions and labor shortages.

Indeed, inflation at levels not seen since the early 1990’s has shown itself to be both larger and more persistent than almost anyone is comfortable with.

Roughly four out of five companies surveyed by the Richmond Federal Reserve reported hiking up prices for consumers to cover “at least some” of the input costs they were experiencing.

But those same execs have been a bit more discreet — apart from their quarterly earnings calls — about celebrating the record profit margins they’ve been able to achieve by not only passing costs on to customers, but by charging even more.

More than half of the companies surveyed by the small business services reviews website reported raising prices beyond what was required to offset rising input costs.

“In other words, businesses are inflating already inflated prices in order to turn a bigger profit amid people’s fears over uncertain times,” the sites small business expert, Dennis Consorte, said in a statement.

Additionally, large firms were more likely to engage in this practice than small businesses, the survey found…read more.

Many Lower Mainland drivers running on empty – for now

Trans Mountain Corp. last week said it hoped to have the pipeline that provides most of the oil, gasoline and diesel for southern B.C., as well as refineries in Washington state with crude oil, back in operation by now.

And Canadian National Railway (TSX:CNR), which can move oil or refined fuels by rail, had resumed some services as of last week.

But it could take a week or two before the Parkland Corp. (TSX:PKI) refinery in Burnaby is back in full production, one petroleum analyst predicted.

Oddly, though some gasoline stations in B.C. ran out of gas, gasoline prices did not spike in Metro Vancouver the way one might have expected.

Gas prices in Vancouver were averaging $1.60 per litre on November 15, when the three-day rainstorm that cut highways, rail lines and shut down the Trans Mountain pipeline ended.

On November 22, the day Parkland announced it was ceasing its refining operations because it was out of oil, gas prices in Vancouver fell by about $0.02 per litre, according to GasBuddy…read more.

Canadian Entrepreneurs Are Quitting While Government Employment Soars

Canada prides itself on being an ideal environment for entrepreneurs but stats disagree. Statistics Canada (Stat Can) employment data shows self-employment is shrinking. These individuals now represent the smallest share of employment since the early 1980s. At the same time, the public sector has been hiring roughly two people per self-employed job lost. Employment might be recovering but it’s a totally different labor market.

Self-Employment Drops To The Smallest Share Of Workers Since The Early 80s

Canadian entrepreneurship has taken a hit and not just because of the recession. The number of Canadians that identify as self-employed fell to 2.92 million in October, down 3.8% from last year. It’s now 12.1% lower than the peak reached in September 2019. The public health restrictions definitely accelerated this trend but it started before 2020. The environment was weakening before the recession, meaning bigger issues are present.

Self-employed Canadians have shrunk to their smallest share of employment since the 1980s. They represent 15.7% of total employment, down from 17.2% a year ago. The share hasn’t been this small since June 1982. That was also right around the last inflation crisis Canada faced.

Public Sector Employment Hits The Largest Share Of Employment Since 1992

Canada has been leaning on public employees to help pad its employment numbers. There were 4.15 million public sector employees in October, up 5.7% from last year. Annual growth advanced a point faster than general employment. This helped the sector to hit a new record high.

Public sector employment has captured its largest share of employment in three decades. It now makes up 21.8% of all people employed in the country as of October, the highest share since 1992. Canada’s public sector essentially hired two people for every self-employed person lost…read more.

Canadian Share Of Employment

The share of self-employed and public sector employees, as a percentage of total employment in Canada.

Supply chain crisis shows signs of gradually easing

Slowly but surely, the supply chain bottlenecks that have plagued the global economy for over a year appear to be easing—or at least have been circumvented.

The country’s largest retailers all said in unison this week that supply chain snags won’t play the role of the Grinch this holiday shopping season.

  • The CEO of TJX, the parent company of TJ Maxx and HomeGoods, declared, “We are in an excellent inventory position” ahead of the holidays.
  • Target’s inventory surged 17.6% last quarter. It said its investments in inventory and staffing mean “we are going to be there” when you walk in to buy that TV.

And remember the global chip shortage that was crippling the auto industry? That could be past its peak.

  • GM said that the week of Nov. 1 was the first time since February that none of its North American assembly plants were offline due to a lack of chips.
  • Toyota’s production lines in Japan will return to normal operations in December for the first time in seven months…read more.

Trudeau risks stoking inflation with stimulus plans, Scotiabank says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is at risk of adding to Canada’s inflation problem if it unveils more big-ticket spending measures this fall, a Bank of Nova Scotia economist said in a note to clients.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to give the government’s first major statement on taxes and spending since Trudeau’s Liberal Party won re-election on Sept. 20, including tens of billions in new spending. She should refrain from adding that stimulus to an already hot inflationary environment, Scotiabank’s Rebekah Young said Monday.

“Even since the elections, we’ve seen vulnerabilities in the recovery in terms of higher inflation and severe labor shortages — so different economic issues are emerging and appearing bigger than during election time,” Young said by phone.

Canada has reported inflation of higher than 3 per cent — the upper end of the Bank of Canada’s control range — for six straight months. That streak is almost certain to reach seven months when October’s inflation numbers come out on Wednesday: Economists are expecting a 4.7 per cent price rise…read more.