Job growth: east gets burned by cen­tral heat

Truro Daily News - - NEWS - Jim Vib­ert Jim Vib­ert grew up in truro and is a nova Sco­tian jour­nal­ist, writer and for­mer po­lit­i­cal and com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant to gov­ern­ments of all stripes.

The good thing about liv­ing on the wrong side of the na­tional tracks is the boom-bust cy­cles felt by the rest of the coun­try are mere blips here. The down side, other than never re­ally hear­ing the boom, is that na­tional pol­icy is made for the big, fat mid­dle of the coun­try.

The na­tional econ­omy is heat­ing up, so Bank of Canada in­ter­est rates are ris­ing. If job numbers are an in­di­ca­tion, Nova Sco­tia’s econ­omy isn’t even warm, yet folks here strug­gle with the same rates that are taken in stride from Quebec City to Vic­to­ria.

Busi­nesses from coast to coast hate the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s pro­posed small-busi­ness tax changes, which can be made to sound rea­son­able west of the Sague­nay. East of the big Quebec river, a small busi­ness is more of­ten scratch­ing out a liv­ing than rolling in dough. Ot­tawa’s shot at fair­ness missed the tar­get and hit At­lantic small busi­nesses where they live.

In the true east, poor and rarely free, the Canada Health Act may be the most fre­quently con­tra­vened law of the land.

Nova Sco­tia’s top-flight med­i­cal care is con­cen­trated 300 kilo­me­tres from Yar­mouth and 400 from Syd­ney, as a re­sult, cit­i­zens are reg­u­larly de­nied their statu­tory right to free-of-charge in­sured med­i­cal ser­vices.

Peo­ple at the ge­o­graphic ex­tremes, and many points in be­tween, in­cur sig­nif­i­cant per­sonal ex­pense to get to and from Halifax, where the spe­cial­ists are. That’s un­fair and con­trary to the spirit, if not the let­ter, of the act. But the province will tell you pay­ing for trans­porta­tion is out of reach.

Equal­iza­tion doesn’t equal­ize much, and the for­mula for the big na­tional trans­fers, like health, won’t change to ac­com­mo­date a re­gion with no po­lit­i­cal clout.

This re­gional self pity came on with Au­gust job sta­tis­tics herald­ing the low­est na­tional un­em­ploy­ment rate since be­fore the big, crooked U.S. banks sent the world into a de­pres­sion, while the job­less numbers climbed in Nova Sco­tia.

Even where there is more work, it isn’t nec­es­sar­ily good work. Across the coun­try, and here more so, full-time jobs are on the de­cline, re­placed by an in­crease in part-time work. If you stock shelves for six hours a day and de­liver pizza for six more at night, you might sur­vive, barely.

Peo­ple who are bullish on Halifax point to the cranes on the sky­line as proof that the good times are rolling, or about to. Halifax is grow­ing and there’s ev­i­dence more young peo­ple than usual are stick­ing around.

But, be­fore coun­try boys pack up all their cares and woes and desert Eger­ton and Ar­gyle for the bright city lights, they might want to check on which city is glow­ing with work.

Ev­ery year an out­fit called Ex­press Em­ploy­ment Pro­fes­sion­als cal­cu­lates the coun­try’s hottest job mar­kets. The method­ol­ogy wouldn’t pass muster at the Sobey School of Busi­ness, but for what it’s worth, Halifax doesn’t make the list. Adding in­sult to that in­jury, Monc­ton comes in at num­ber 14, Fred­er­ic­ton and Saint John are ranked in the 20s and St. John’s sneaks in tied for the 50th and fi­nal spot.

While jobs may be hard to come by in Halifax, among prov­inces, Nova Sco­tia is listed fifth for job avail­abil­ity. Like I said, the method­ol­ogy is sus­pect.

What isn’t sus­pect is the province’s ane­mic job growth. Nova Sco­tia’s un­em­ploy­ment rate was 8.9 per cent in Au­gust, up a full per­cent­age point from July and half a per cent from a year ago. The un­em­ploy­ment rate in Halifax jumped a full per­cent­age point year-over-year.

All th­ese sta­tis­tics tell us that some­thing isn’t work­ing around here, be­sides a whole lot of peo­ple. On the other hand, 8.9 per cent isn’t bad, his­tor­i­cally. Since 1980, the av­er­age un­em­ploy­ment rate in Nova Sco­tia has been closer to 10 per cent but still con­sis­tently two or three points above the na­tional level.

Those At­lantic Cana­di­ans who do work earn, gen­er­ally, six to eight grand a year less than their more af­flu­ent coun­try­men to the west. Job one, we are told, is to trap bright young peo­ple in the re­gion. It’s a tough sell.

The most fre­quently ad­ver­tised jobs around here are in re­tail sales — cashiers and clerks, con­struc­tion labour­ers and me­chan­ics. It’s hard to talk a kid with a grad­u­ate de­gree into those gigs, un­less he or she knows cars.

Your me­chanic’s hourly rate makes your doc­tor’s look sick.

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