Zero job growth in Prince Albert

Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

Thousands of Saskatchewan people found jobs in May, with Statistics Canada reporting significant employment growth since the last reporting period.

But not in Prince Albert, where employment numbers are woefully steady.

The data agency recorded an increase of 19,000 in net employment province-wide from April to May. That pushed the province’s unemployment rate down to 6.3 per cent, a decrease of 0.7 per cent month-on-month.

But the rate is still high relative to this time last year, when it stood at 5.8 per cent. Adjusted for seasonal variations in employment, the unemployment rate is virtually flat – it increased by 0.1 per cent since the agency’s last report.

Compared to May of last year, 1,300 more people are working in Saskatchewan. But 4,600 more people have entered the labour force.

In Prince Albert, the economy seems stuck in neutral. The unemployment rate dropped from 11.5 to 10.7 per cent, but the trend was apparently driven by less people searching for work. From April to May, Statistics Canada reported no change in total employment within the city’s statistical area.

Those numbers are unadjusted, and use a three-month moving average. A better sense of the city’s trends comes from a comparison to May of last year. Since then, Prince Albert has lost 100 jobs. The unemployment rate dropped, but only because of a shrinking workforce.

The data provided an occasion for Saskatchewan’s major political parties to resume their monthly press-release jousting. The government quoted Economy Minister Jeremy Harrison:

“Over the past four months we have seen positive job growth in the province. While our labour market is showing strength and resilience, other economic indicators demonstrate momentum such as wholesale trade, urban housing starts, manufacturing sales, merchandise exports and retail sales.”

The government’s release focused on the 1,300 new jobs year-on-year, and noted that Saskatchewan has the fourth lowest unemployment rate among the provinces.

But the seasonal rate has still gone up slightly, by 0.1 per cent. The opposition NDP seized on that fact to call Saskatchewan “one of only two provinces whose unemployment rates have grown.”

“Instead of investing in training, creating jobs, and diversifying the economy, the Sask. Party has thrown people out of work with their callous cuts, desperate sell-offs, and unfair tax hikes that have hurt job-creating small businesses and industries,” the press release quoted NDP Leader Trent Wotherspoon as saying.

“No matter how much the Sask. Party try to spin the statistics the fact is, this year, thousands more people are struggling to find work to keep a roof over their families’ heads and put food on their tables.”