National Unemployment Rate is misleading for the West

In September 2007 Canada reached the lowest employment rate in over the last 35 years at 5.9%.  By mid-year 2009 the national unemployment figure rose to over 8.5%.  To put this in perspective, every percentage point change is approximately 180,000 people who no longer have a position.  Today the national rate is 7.4%, lower than the national average for the last 36 years (8.5%) – and that should encourage us, however it is not because the unemployment rate is actually trending in the wrong direction, just four months ago the rate was 7.1%. This dark cloud that seems to hover, creating feelings of concern that is misleading for the Western market. 

In Western Canada the unemployment rate in British Columbia is 6.9%, 5% in Alberta, and 5% in Saskatchewan.   These rates are very encouraging and show how robust the Western economic position is at present.  On average the Western unemployment rate is lower than the lowest Canadian average in the last 36 years.  For the strongest province of Alberta the rate is not at the 3.3% we saw at the peak of the boom but this is the range at which Alberta and the West reasonably operate in times of stability, not excessive boom or recession.  The discussions around the national average can taint the optimistic and envious position the Western provinces are in, effecting how recruiters go to market and the message we send.  The message is not unemployment rates; the message is a tight labour market.

In Western Canada the employment rate could be lower but there is a mismatch of skills to market need.  Specifically in Alberta, there are more jobs than people to fill them, especially within certain skill categories in the natural resource sector suggests Executrade’s VP of Northern Alberta, Kelly Martin.  For recruiters in the Western market the trick is not finding the jobs, it is filling them with the right people, a people market that continues to tighten in a strengthening Western market.  

The labour forces are very different in Western Canada and while employment rates take a front seat in national debates, regionally the discussion is around a labour skills shortage.  This presents a great challenge facing companies in this market, but also the greatest opportunity for recruiters to become experts in the western market needs, passive candidate recruiting and candidate relocation needs.  These can all be very complex issues, but changing complex into simple is what recruiters do best.

Simplicity would suggest, if you want a job done right, ask a specialist.



Your Recruiting Specialist



Kelly Martin:

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