Jobs plentiful in province
Unemployment rate dips below four per cent
REGINA — There are more jobs than people to fill them in Saskatchewan as job numbers surged in September and the province’s unemployment rate dipped to 3.9 per cent, second only to Alberta and well below the national rate of 5.9 per cent.
Therewere499,100peopleworkingin the province in September, a Saskatchewan record for the month, according to unadjusted figures released by Statistics Canada on Friday.
That number is up 18,900 from a year earlier, the second-biggest increase behind Alberta.
This is the sixth straight month of job growth for Saskatchewan. The unemployment rate has dropped from 5.5 per cent a year cent rate.
Industry and Resources Minister Eric Cline said the job numbers are a tribute to Saskatchewan having one of the hottest economies in the country.
But combined with stagnant population figures — recent statistics show Saskatchewan’s population of just over 985,000 is the lowest in 24 years — Cline acknowledged that the province is grappling with a labour shortage.
“It is a concern. Notwithstanding the fact that we have so many more people working now than we did a year ago, we still believe that we have 10,000 to 15,000 jobs that are vacant. So there’s more jobs available for people out there and that’s why we’re trying to encourage people to return to Saskatchewan or to move to Saskatchewan from elsewhere,” Cline said to reporters at the Saskatoon cabinet office Friday.
Cline said the NDP government will unveil next week its planned campaign to tout the province’s merits to business and investment audiences across Canada.
But the Saskatchewan Party said the government isn’t doing enough as the province sheds people, especially to Alberta.
Oppos i t ion industry critic Lyle Stewart said there’s no debate that the job numbers are very strong, thanks to a booming natural resource sector and business tax cuts implemented by the NDP government this spring.
The Saskatchewan Party claims credit for the impetus behind the tax cuts, and says the government could do more to attract and retain people.
“There needs to be some incentives for young people to stay, whether its through help with tuition, whether its tax abatement for some years after graduation from post-secondary institutions . . . we need to address immigration and I still think there is more room for more of a growth agenda,” said Stewart.
Numbers from Statistics Canada show that Regina had an unemployment rate of 5.2 per cent and Saskatoon a rate of 4.3 per cent based on a three-month moving average.
Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce executive director Kent Smith-Windsor estimated the number of vacant positions in Saskatoon is in the thousands and said it’s been both stressful and surprising for city businesses.
Saskatchewan’s recent boom in jobs follows a long period of stagnant job creation in the province and both employers and employees are still trying to get a handle on the change, said Smith-Windsor.
“Until we get a sense across the province . . . that you can predict with some level of confidence that there’s going to be progressively more job opportunities and career options in front of you, you can expect a lot of young people to move elsewhere,” he said.
Larry Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, pointed out studies by accounting firm KPMG have consistently shown that Saskatchewan cities are already among the most cost-competitive in North America.
He said businesses have to take responsibility for the labour shortage by ensuring that wages are competitive and jobs are stable and full-time.
“When you’ve got captains of industry constantly engaging in what I have characterized as a constant barrage of negativity, then pretty soon people aren’t going to believe this is a good place. And then they’ll wonder why they can’t attract and retain and recruit people here,” said Hubich.
Job statistics show that the number of people working dropped by 2,400 from the month. When numbers are seasonally adjusted however, there are 7,000 more people employed than in August.
The labour force has grown from 508,400 a year ago to 519,400 in September 2006. The labour force was 532,100 in August.