Workers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba have fared better during the current recession than the rest of Canada, according to a labour force survey released by Statistics Canada earlier this month. The two provinces are currently enjoying the lowest unemployment rates in the country.
As of August 2009, Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate was at 5 per cent while Manitoba’s came in around 5.7 per cent. Canada had an overall rate of 8.7 per cent in August.
While the central provinces have the lowest rates in the country, unemployment actually increased in each province from July to August. In July, unemployment in Saskatchewan was 4.7 per cent while Manitoba had a rate of 5.2 per cent. Canada as a whole was still well above the two provinces that month, at 8.6 per cent.
Having the second lowest unemployment rate in Canada, Manitoba is also doing quite well according to Wilf Falk, the province’s chief statistician.
“From October 2008, the benchmark start of the recession [ . . . ] Manitoba has created over 4,000 jobs according to Stats Canada,” said Falk.
Canada lost more than 387,000 jobs during the same time period, he said.
According to Falk, the labour force in Manitoba has grown by 14,000 since October 2008, putting the province in second place after Alberta in terms of growth.
The 0.5 per cent increase in unemployment between July and August was due to a very strong labour force growth, said Falk, with more than 7,500 more people looking for work in August.
“We created 3,400 jobs, but that wasn’t enough to offset the people who entered the market, and therefore the unemployment rate went up,” said the statistician.
Falk said current figures indicate that Manitoba will be the only province in 2009 to have positive economic growth.
“I think things are looking well for the rest of the year and 2010.” But, he said, “again, those are only forecasts. You never know how things are actually going to turn out.”
Rob Norris, Saskatchewan’s minister of advanced education, employment and labour, said that although the province is not immune to the current economic situation, the job climate in Saskatchewan is positive.
According to Norris, 1,800 new jobs were created from August 2008 to August 2009. He said that Saskatoon alone created over 2,000 new jobs.
“There are about 6,000 jobs listed on the government of Saskatchewan’s website. There are thousands of unfilled jobs in Saskatchewan,” said Norris.
“We’re not immune to what’s going on, but Saskatchewan’s economy remains robust.”
A diversified resource portfolio allows for Saskatchewan to enjoy the lowest unemployment rate in the country. These resources include a quarter of the world’s potash, the second largest oil production in Canada and close to half of the country’s agriculturally capable land, according to Norris.
He said that an important source of growth for the economy is the growing population in Saskatchewan, which has increased by 18,000 since November 2007. That’s a stark contrast, he said, to the period between 2001 and 2007 during which Saskatchewan lost 35,000 people.
“People are coming,” said Norris. “They’re buying homes, furniture, rolling up their sleeves and getting down to work because we still have thousands of jobs available and that in itself is stimulating the economy.”