P.A., Saskatchewan shed jobs

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

Most recent labour force survey shows decline in number of people working

The latest job numbers released by Statistics Canada show fewer people working in Prince Albert and Saskatchewan.

According to the agency, Saskatchewan shed 4,000 jobs in October, while the unemployment rate decrease 0.3 percentage points to 5.9 per cent.

The decline in employment was entirely full-time work.

Compared to last year, the province’s unemployment rate has actually declined, even though employment has remained virtually unchanged. This could mean fewer people are looking for a job, as the unemployment rate only considers people either working or actively looking for work.

Locally, employment in Prince Albert may appear similar on the surface, but when you dig a little deeper, it paints a much different picture.

The unemployment rate year-over-year remained virtually unchanged, climbing from 8.7 to 8.8 per cent.

The number of people working, though, has decreased dramatically.

According to data supplied by Statistics Canada, 21,000 people were employed in the city last October. This year, only 19,800 were working.

The change is reflected in the participation and employment rates.

The participation rate, which reflects the portion of the population either looking for work or employed, fell from 67.8 per cent last year to 63.6 per cent in October 2017.

The employment rate, which measures the percentage of population working, dropped from 61.9 per cent to 58.1 per cent, with very little change in the population numbers over the same period.

One more statistic points to the possibility that fewer people are working or looking for a job. The number of people fitting that category has gone down even as 100 more are looking for work and 200 people were added to the city.

Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce CEO Larry Fladager points to low resource revenues as one of the reasons the economy is still slowly chugging along.

“I think the hope is there would be a recovery in oil and gas and potash, but that’s not happening,” Fladager said.

“I think with the price of oil hovering around $55 per barrel, you’re seeing some recovery in Alberta. Hopefully some of that recovery will manifest itself in Saskatchewan.”

Fladager pointed to a couple of ways resource revenue would help the Prince Albert job situation.

For one, there is a population of people who live in the city but work in the northern Alberta oilsands.

“Hopefully some of those people will be getting back to work or getting more fully engaged in their work in those sectors.”

Another way resource revenue affects the city is by increasing or decreasing provincial dollars.

“Government-related employment is strong in P.A.. That’s down because there have been lots of changes in funding models for a variety of agencies. There have probably been some job losses on the government services side, which is a huge part of our economy here in Prince Albert with highways and health services.”

While that’s based on what Fladager is hearing, he was reluctant to comment on specific job numbers, as they tend to fluctuate from month to month.

He did say the harvest was good this year, which is good news for farmers, but will have little impact on the job market.

“What I am hearing is that the housing market is somewhat slow,” Fladager said.

“One of the biggest employers of the area, the health region, is going through some restructuring and that is probably creating some uncertainty. That reduces people’s confidence in spending money. That’s reflected in house and car sales, those things people spend money on when things are good.”

Like Fladager, Statistics Canada pointed to the 2014 oil price collapse as still having ripple effects in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

In November of that year, the provincial unemployment rate was 3.5 per cent. It peaked at 7 per cent, and is now 5.9 per cent. It hasn’t come close to the pre-crash number yet.

Nationwide, employment increased in October, driven by gains in full-time work.