P.E.I. unemployment rate remains lowest in region

·3 min read
'There's a lot of jobs, but somehow not a lot of workers are willing to fill in those jobs,' says UPEI economics Prof. George Jia. (Tim Boyle/Bloomberg - image credit)
'There's a lot of jobs, but somehow not a lot of workers are willing to fill in those jobs,' says UPEI economics Prof. George Jia. (Tim Boyle/Bloomberg - image credit)

P.E.I.'s unemployment rate rose almost a full percentage point in July, but remained in record low territory.

Statistics Canada released the monthly labour force survey Friday morning.

The unemployment rate went from 4.9 to 5.7 per cent. Nationally the unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.9 per cent.

P.E.I. still has the lowest unemployment rate in Atlantic Canada, but fell behind provinces to the west of the region.

The June report shattered a number of records. The previous lowest unemployment rate was 7.7 per cent, which means even with the relatively large increase July's unemployment rate is still the second lowest on record.

The province also saw a record number of jobs in June, but UPEI economics Prof. George Jia cautioned against reading too much into the June numbers.

"I think last month's number was sort of a data blip," said Jia.

"According to Statistics Canada, between May and June we apparently gained about 4,000 jobs, which actually, for the size of our labour force, is very unlikely."

Jia said he will not be paying too much attention to June's report in his analyses, but noted no matter how you look at it the job market is hot. Comparing May to July you see the unemployment rate drop from 7.8 to 5.7 per cent.

Population growing, but worker numbers down

There was a small loss of jobs, but the unemployment rate was down because there were fewer people in the workforce.

That was despite a growing population. The workforce on P.E.I. in July was about the same as it was in November. Over the same period, the population of working age Islanders grew by 3,800.

P.E.I. labour force

Jia said the reluctance of Islanders to go to work may be connected to the high demand for workers. Just like people have regularly been talking about with health-care workers, workers across the economy may be suffering from burnout.

"There's a lot of jobs, but somehow not a lot of workers are willing to fill in those jobs," said Jia.

"The existing workers, they're suffering burnout because they're actually carrying the load of the unfilled vacancies."

The participation rate in July, the percentage of the population either working or looking for work, fell to 64.5 per cent. In the pre-pandemic years of 2018 and 2019, the average participation rate was 66.6 per cent.

The decline has been particularly strong for men. Measuring from February, following the pandemic-affected month of January, the participation rate fell one percentage point for women, but almost five percentage points for men.

P.E.I. labour force participation rate

Some of those men may have been discouraged by weakness in two male-dominated sectors, said Jia: fishing and mining, and transportation and wholesale.

Year over year, those two sectors were almost 40 per cent, which may have prompted some employed in that sector to sit back and wait for better opportunities to return, said Jia.

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