The Search for Untapped Talent: Alberta Labour Market Info, June 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A couple of interesting reports have been released in the last week regarding the labour market in Alberta. The first report, provided by the Alberta government, highlights several trends from the month of June in the province:

  • Employment growth flat. Alberta’s employment dipped slightly (-700) in June, following
    two very strong months of job gains. June’s flat reading was largely due to losses in public
    sector jobs (-2,400), which more than offset the private sector gains (+1,600). Alberta has
    gained 55,100 jobs since June 2012, representing a 2.6% increase.
  • Goods sector adds jobs. The agriculture (+2,800) and construction (+2,400) industries
    contributed the most to the 2,300 increase in goods sector employment gains. Employment
    in the services-producing sector fell by 3,100 in June, largely due to job losses in health
    care and social services (-6,600).
  • Unemployment rate edges up as more people look for work. The unemployment rate
    moved up to 5.0 per cent in June. The increase was largely a result of 3,500 people joining
    the labour force.
  • Weekly earnings continue to climb in March. Average weekly earnings increased to $1,098 in April. This is 3.4% higher than April of last year.
Even though overall employment dipped slightly, Alberta continues to have the highest employment rate in Canada. With an employment rate of 69.0% for jobseekers aged 15+, Alberta remains well above the national employment rate of 60.9%.

With employment growth flat you may be wondering about the impending labour shortage we continually hear about in Alberta. A new report from the University of Alberta’s Institute for Public Economics puts a steep price tag on the labour shortage - $33.5 billion dollars over the next four years.

To combat the shortage the report urges businesses to make greater use of under-tapped labour groups such as mature workers, people with disabilities and aboriginals.

To improve labour force participation of persons with disabilities they suggest that the government should take on the full cost of providing accommodations and making workplaces accessible to workers with disabilities. Consider this, by 2020 there will be over 525,000 people in Alberta living with a disability. This means that in the next 7 years there will be over 50,000 more persons with disabilities working in the province.

The report also raised eyebrows by suggesting to change immigrant policy by focusing more on bringing in skilled candidates from abroad, and eliminating temporary visas for unskilled labour. The idea being that vacancies in low skilled or semi-skilled positions can be filled by mature workers, persons with disabilities and aboriginals.

In response, many members of the tourist and hospitality industries stated that phasing out of the temporary visas for low skilled positions would be devastating. Temporary foreign workers currently account for 11% of all jobs in the accommodation industry.

What do you think? Will eliminating temporary visas for low skill positions help solve some of Alberta's labour problems, or make them worse?

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