Labour shift

Charles Strachey is seeing something new on Service Canada’s Job Bank these days: positions in the Red Deer region for oilpatch, manufacturing and construction workers.

Charles Strachey is seeing something new on Service Canada’s Job Bank these days: positions in the Red Deer region for oilpatch, manufacturing and construction workers.

“There seems to be a shift in the types of jobs,” observed Strachey, a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration.

Not only that, the number of postings are up. On Friday, Strachey counted about 300 listings on the online Job Bank, as compared with an earlier figure of around 220.

Unemployment stats issued by Statistics Canada on Friday also suggest that the local labour market is strengthening. The jobless rate for the Red Deer region last month was seven per cent, down a full percentage point from September.

Strachey said this supports anecdotal evidence of an improved job market.

“I talked to our contractor at the Career Assistance Network, and they said in the last three weeks they’ve seen a lot more people coming in saying they’ve found jobs — especially in the oilpatch.”

Oil and gas companies often increase their staffing in the fall, as do many other employers, noted Strachey.

“Summer kind of slows down for hiring, but in the fall it picks back up.”

He added that the federal government’s home renovation tax credit program is probably creating work, and a recent increase in residential construction starts might be generating jobs in related businesses like cabinet-making.

The Red Deer area’s drop in unemployment last month was greater than in any other region. However, the jobless rate here still remains among the highest in the province.

The Banff-Jasper-Rocky Mountain House region went from 4.4 to 4.2 per cent between September and October, Wood Buffalo-Cold Lake decreased from 4.6 to 4.4 per cent, Camrose-Drumheller improved from 6.6 to 6.2 per cent, Lethbridge-Medicine Hat declined from seven to 6.6 per cent, the Calgary region went from 6.9 to 6.8 per cent, the Edmonton region climbed from 7.7 to 7.8 per cent, and Athabasca-Grande Prairie remained constant at 9.1 per cent.

In October 2008, the unemployment rate for the Red Deer region was 4.3 per cent.

Terry Jorden, a public affairs officer with Alberta Employment and Immigration, pointed out that the regional unemployment figures are not adjusted to account for seasonal changes.

The provincial jobless rate, which is seasonally adjusted, was 7.5 per cent in October. That was 0.4 percentage points higher than for September, and the highest figure for Alberta since January of 1996, said Jorden.

“It’s disappointing for sure. We did see an improved unemployment rate for September; we were hoping that trend would continue.”

Jorden said he’s heard that some oilsands construction projects wrapped up recently, as have some major construction projects at Calgary.

“We still feel that the long term looks good and that the labour market will recover and be strong in the years ahead.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com