Job numbers in Prince Albert stay on track

The construction industry is facing a persistent downturn province-wide.

The monthly Statistics Canada labour force estimates came out Friday, and whether employment grew or fell, and whether things look good or bad depends on which numbers you look at and whom you speak to.

Prince Albert saw trends from previous months continue, with more people in the labour force this year. The city had an increase in both the number of people working and the number of people not working but looking for work. In order to count as unemployed, an individual must be looking for work.

The increase in the number of people looking for work appears to be driving the unemployment rate up, as the seasonally-unadjusted data shows the unemployment rate in February 2018 was eight per cent, but has since grown to 9.5 per cent. This is despite the number of people working growing by an estimated 400 people. An additional 400 people are looking for work as compared to this time last year. The percentages of people participating in the labour force and of people working both grew year-over-year. The employment rate went up by one percentage point and the participation rate by 2.1 percentage points.

Regionally, the data looks less rosy.

Despite the provincial government touting year-over-year employment increases in Regina (1,300 jobs or 0.9 per cent) and Saskatoon (6,500 jobs and 3.9 per cent), the data for Prince Albert and northern Saskatchewan economic region (with boundaries set by Statistics Canada) saw employment down and the number of people involved in the labour force (working or looking) also drop, meanwhile, the unemployment rate for the economic region went from 6.3 per cent to 7.9 per cent.

An even bigger number came from data used by Employment Insurance. The Northern Saskatchewan region, which includes Prince Albert, has an unemployment rate of 19.5 per cent over the last three months, according to EI. Of all the EI regions in Canada,  only Northern Manitoba and Nunavut have higher rates.

The picture is also murky if you look at Saskatchewan as a whole. Year-over-year, the province gained 9,100 jobs, an increase of 1.6 per cent.

“This marks the seventh consecutive month of strong job gains for the province and represents a record number of jobs for the month of February,” the Saskatchewan Party said in a press release.

That job growth included increases in both full and part-time work. Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate remains at the national average of 5.8 per cent.

Month-to-month, though, seasonally-adjusted numbers don’t look so good. As pointed out by the opposition NDP, Saskatchewan has shed 1,300 jobs. The province actually gained an estimated 200 jobs, putting the full-time job losses at 1,500 since between January and February.

Increases have been seen in health care and social services, as well as finance, insurance, real estate, leasing and agriculture since last year. Construction, though, has seen job losses. The NDP used the opportunity to all for the PST on construction to be scrapped.

“Protecting Saskatchewan jobs starts with scrapping the Sask. Party’s PST hike on construction labour, reinstating the film employment tax credit that was cut, and fixing the government’s flawed procurement policies that shut out Saskatchewan workers and businesses,” said NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon in a press release.

Nationally, Canada saw job growth on both a monthly and an annual basis. Employment was up 56,000 in February, growing 369,000, or two per cent, as compared to last year. That growth came in both full and part-time work. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.8 per cent.