Who needs workers?

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX: Recent changes to how many Temporary Foreign Workers an employer can hire, and the cost of application, has raised concern in the industry.
Labour shortages—or at least the perception of them—are a hot topic for Alberta’s employers. In a recent ATB Business Beat survey, nearly two-thirds of small and medium-sized businesses report difficulty in filling certain unskilled positions. But are these labour shortages real, or are they mostly myth?

According to the latest Jobs Vacancy report issued by Statistics Canada, the labour shortages are indeed real—at least in certain industries in Alberta. As of July, 2.4 per cent of all jobs in the province are unfilled. That compares with a relatively low rate of 1.5 per cent nationwide.

The tightest labour market in Alberta is still the accommodation and food sector, where a whopping 7.7 per cent of jobs are waiting to be filled. That’s nearly four times the national rate for all industries, and even three times the rate across industries in Alberta. This is why restaurants, hotels, coffee shops and fast food outlets are desperate to fill positions using the Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program. Recent changes to how many TFWs an employer can hire, and the cost of application, has raised concern in the industry.

Other sectors in Alberta, however, are not facing nearly the same worker shortage. Only 1 per cent of jobs are unfilled in educational services, and 1.1 per cent in manufacturing. The Jobs Vacancy report is for July but is a snapshot of the three-month rolling average, so these numbers are a good reflection of the demand for workers in the period May to July.

Todd Hirsch  Chief Economist     October 24, 2014

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