February Labour Force Woes
The unemployment rate is up again this month, to 7.3%, with 1.4 million workers looking for jobs in February. A loss of full-time work was partly replaced by part time positions. A disproportionate percentage of last year’s growth came from precarious self-employment.
Remember those heady days when we could say that at least Canada’s unemployment rate was lower than the U.S.? Yeah. Adjusted to U.S. concepts the Canadian unemployment rate is 6.2%, compared to their 4.9%.
Well, all is not lost. The Alternative Federal Budget was released yesterday, and it included some pretty key investments to create jobs, boost economic growth, lower income inequality, and lift people out of poverty.
While there are many great suggestions in the AFB (fully costed, with a distribution impact assessment), the job numbers today show that improvements to Employment Insurance are particularly urgent. And with EI, skills training and supports to help workers adjusting to shifts in the economy.
Saskatchewan, my home province, lost 7,800 jobs in February, and 6,000 more workers left the labour market. Alberta has lost more than 50,000 full time jobs over the past year. Having lost high wage jobs in the natural resource industry, many are wondering what comes next.
This is why the labour movement talks about a just transition. Individual workers shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of economic restructuring on their own. A strong social safety net, skills training programs, and thoughtful social and physical infrastructure investment can cushion the blow for workers now, and speed the transition to a more prosperous future.
Go read the AFB, it’s time to move on.