Why does Calgary have the highest unemployment rate of Canadian cities?
The gap is widening between the demands of employers and those job seekers in Calgary.
With its growing economy and a labor shortage, “Alberta is calling,” the provincial government repeats in an ad. Calgary's unemployment rate of 6.6%, however, is the cold shower in this idyllic portrait of the Alberta economy. In February, it was the highest of any major Canadian city.
Since August, job losses have been constant. In six months, 30,600 positions have been eliminated in Calgary, while Edmonton has gained 27,700 and Montreal, 71,400.
What is happening within the economic capital of the province?
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Mathilde Le Roux, employment counselor at the Prospect agency, notes a gap between the skills sought by employers and those of job seekers. Since she works a lot with French speakers, fluency in English is the first barrier, but others are added to that.
I'm going to go into something very specific, but I've had a lot of clients come in who are in the engineering field. Except that, to be an engineer here, you have to be recognized by APEGA [Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta], she explains, adding: So, these profiles, where there are regulations to respect, are going to be very qualified, but it will take time for their skills to be recognized.
Alberta thus attracted more than 52,000 immigrants, net, from other provinces and from abroad in the third quarter of 2022. The provincial government celebrates it, but the reality is also long months not only of waiting for recognition of diplomas and certifications, but also administrative procedures.
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The job market in Calgary, a quintessential hydrocarbon city, is still recovering from the oil price crash of 2014 and 2020, Mathilde Le Roux also suggests: Even if the oil and gas sector starts to recruit, it has restructured, so we need less manpower.
Canada West Foundation Employment Specialist Janet Lane adds grist to the mill on this suggestion: We always have people who had high salaries and who don't have still not found an equivalent job or a job at all.
Statistics do not exist specifically for Calgary, but the provincial proportion of long-term unemployed (beyond 27 weeks of job search) is high, at almost 22%. This is the highest rate of the major Canadian provinces and it comes to us from the layoffs of our traditional industries, says Janet Lane.
How to explain, then, the concerns around a labor shortage? For Janet Lane, the answer is simple: Calgary isn't attracting coveted employees.
“We have a high rate of post-secondary graduates in Calgary and a lot of jobs that don't require a post-secondary education.
— Janet Lane, Director at the Canada West Foundation
Of 103,000 job vacancies in September 2022 in Alberta, two-thirds, or about 70,000, required a degree high school or less education, she points out.
Restaurants, hotels and retail trade are among these recruitment sectors. In this sense, the provincial government's advertising campaign is of little use because it does not target the employees it is trying to attract, according to Ms. Lane.
Instead, she advises encouraging training for these in-demand jobs.
Cristina Schultz of employment agency About Staffing sees another gap: working conditions. Job seekers are looking for hybrid work or telecommuting opportunities, but the available offers and what employers want are employees in the office, she explains.
The wheel also squeaks when the issue of wages is addressed. When there was a lot of talk about shortages, employers had to be creative in enticing employees with additional benefits, incentives and salary increases. […] They are now more realistic and more conservative with their budget.
In this power game, employers have a better chance of winning, she believes, especially with high unemployment: The balance is tilting a little bit, but not yet completely to one side.
< p class="e-p">The manager of the City of Calgary's Department of Economics, Oyin Shyllon, isn't panicking yet, however. Yes, having six months of job losses is worrisome, but a real chronic problem looms at nine months, he says.
He just believes Calgary is in a cycle of business different than other cities.
“We have had strong job growth compared to other cities. We are slowing down now.
— Oyin Shyllon, Head of Department of Economics, City of Calgary
The thing that reassures him is that the jobs lost are mostly on time partial.