John Heffernan has found work with a Saskatoon construction company. (CBC)

A recent arrival to Saskatchewan from Ireland says his home country is experiencing an exodus that compares to the movement of people during the great potato famine.

"In Ireland we've dried up of construction work," John Heffernan, who arrived in Saskatoon on Thursday, told CBC News.

"Unemployment is nearly at an all-time high. We've probably the biggest immigration, the amount of people leaving Ireland, since the famine of the 1800s," he added.

Saskatoon employers eager as well

Heffernan landed a job with a Saskatoon builder after checking out the job market in Toronto.

He found business owners in Saskatchewan were keen to hire.

"Everybody in the construction industry is having a hard time finding enough skilled labour to do the work," Pat Donovan of Top West Developments and Heffernan's new employer, told CBC News.

It took two years for all the paperwork necessary for Heffernan to get to Canada, which he said can be too long for some.

"There's a lot of people in a bad need to get out of there," Heffernan said. "To get a better life for themselves."

A Saskatoon-based immigration consultant says there is competition for Ireland's workers.

"There's quite a bit of unemployment in the youth.  And they want to work.  And we have jobs for them," Michael Lieffer, from International Manpower Group, told CBC News. "What we're hearing from them is if there's opportunities in Saskatchewan or Canada, they'd be very interested."

Lieffer also noted, however, that many Irish nationals are choosing to move to Australia.