High operating costs due to inflation, labour shortages and supply chain issues are giving Red Deer and area businesses the most grief, according to the results of a Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce survey from late September.
Results showed 60 per cent of businesses are experiencing a moderate to significant labour shortage, with 82 per cent of businesses experiencing a labour shortage on some level.
The top three hiring barriers for businesses were skills and experience (73 per cent), small hiring pool (56 per cent), and real versus expected wages (44 per cent).
But in the next 12 months, 51 per cent of respondents project that their businesses will expand. Another 44 per cent expect their businesses to remain the same, and 4.5 per cent predict their business will contract.
“We know there are some drags on the larger economy in Canada that may create a slowdown. However Alberta is being identified as one province that will either see much less of a slow down, or maybe even not at all because of the industries that are really going well,” said chamber CEO Scott Robinson.
He said oil and gas and agriculture are two examples of Alberta’s robust sectors, which will fuel other parts of the economy, leading to optimism in the business community.
He said the skilled labour shortage is a reoccurring theme across industries and across the country.
According to Statistics Canada, employers across all sectors in Canada were actively seeking to fill nearly one million (997,000) vacant positions in the second quarter, the highest quarterly number on record.
“It’s a systematic issue. The reality is we have created an ecosystem of business that requires a certain number of workers and we have an aging population.”
He said the biggest driver of the labour shortage is people retiring. Canada’s largest group are the baby boomers, born between 1948 and 1964 and increasing retirements has put the focus on immigration and looking at how to accommodate older workers who will still work part-time.
Chambers across Canada, including Red Deer, are advocating for policies to increase labour mobility, immigration, and international student worker flexibility.
Provincially, chambers are pushing for more support through Alberta Jobs & Employment for additional resources to support employment-based initiatives, like wage subsidies for lower-paying jobs.
Robinson said the provincial government knows if employers don’t have enough people to get work done, it negatively impacts the economy.
“So if we want to continue to grow as a province, we have to find solutions to some of these issues, so (the province) is definitely at the table. It’s a matter of trying to find the right programs and services that increase employability and employees coming here.”