Newfoundland and Labrador’s labour market marked a milestone last month, as its unemployment rate was reported at the lowest it’s been since data became available in 1976.
The latest labour market survey from Statistics Canada showed Newfoundland and Labrador’s unemployment rate fell 1.4 percentage points, from 10.2 per cent in May to 8.8 per cent in June.
Employment in the province increased by over 2,300 positions last month, according to the survey, making Newfoundland and Labrador one of only three provinces to see an increase in employment, alongside Ontario and Nova Scotia.
Lynn Gambin, an associate professor in Memorial University’s economics department, said the figure seems like good news overall, but is only a snapshot in time.
“I look back over the monthly figures since 1976, and this is the lowest that we see. But it of course is only one number. So it’s good, [but] it’s whether that continues,” Gambin told CBC News Monday.
“It’s still above the national figure, it’s still above all other provinces as well … [but] it’s just one month, so always a word of caution.”
Gambin said much of the growth was in part-time work, which increased by over 3,000 positions. By comparison, full-time employment numbers fell by over 800 positions.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s active workforce, those who are either employed or looking for employment, also shrunk by 1,500 people in June. The province’s participation rate, meaning those participating in the active workforce, is the lowest in Canada at 56.9 per cent.
“When we have lower participation, it’s a tighter labour market where we don’t have the people available and ready to go into work,” Gambin said. “We always will have people who are unemployed because there’s not always a match between what people are looking for, what they’re equipped to work at, and what employers are looking for on the other side.”
The tighter labour market sets the stage for a highly competitive job market. Kevin Peters, the COO of Hickman Automotive Group in St. John’s, says the company has seen a shortage in skilled positions like technicians.
“We’re all searching for those ideal candidates, and that pool is not as big as it used to be,” Peters said Monday. “It’s probably the number one issue that most business leaders are are dealing with today is how to find, retain and attract good talent.”
The labour market has only gotten tighter in the last 10 years, Peters said, adding he’s seen the number of applicants to open positions drop from over 100 at times to less than two dozen.
The company employs over 450 people across the island, and Peters says their workforce is getting older, leaving him concerned about filling those holes once talent leaves the workforce.
While Gambin says the unemployment rate will fluctuate from month to month, there are opportunities for economic growth in sectors like technology and oil and gas.