Sask. job climate slowest in 20 years, says temp. agency worker

Saskatchewan's employment rate dropped two years in a row recently, a first since 2000. The drops are small, but a two-year slump is rare, and if it continues, the labour market is in deep trouble

One Saskatoon temp agency receives 30-40 resumes a day, and calls the job market 'very, very slow'

Linda Mainland says the current job climate is the slowest she's seen in her 20 years in the staffing business. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

Saskatchewan's employment rate dropped two years in a row recently — a first since 2000, according to an overview of the province's 2017 labour market published by Sask. Trends Monitor.

The drops are small, but a two-year slump is rare — and, if it continues, the labour market is in deep trouble, according to Doug Elliot, the statistician behind the report.

"It's not as bad as it sounds. On the other hand, we've had 24 months without employment growth," Elliot said.

"If we go through another year like this, then there will be lots more reason for concern. Then, I would argue, it establishes a pattern."

No one is broadcasting a year of surging unemployment, but the current job climate is still difficult to navigate for those on the hunt for work.

Out-migration from Saskatchewan to other provinces is increasing, but there is no way to link the moves to the labour market.

"Most observers feel that it is an important factor affecting migration," said Elliott.

'They'll take any positions'

Linda Mainland's office receives at least 30 resumes a day from job seekers across the province. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
Linda Mainland receives 30-40 resumes every day at her temporary work agency, Quest Staffing Services.

In her 20 years in the staffing business, she believes the labour market is at its slowest now.

"The labour market right now, in my opinion, is very, very slow. There's not a lot of construction going on and, as far as I have heard, there's not going to be a lot going on," she said.

Mainland's business provides general labourers, construction workers and clerical workers. Hiring in those sectors has slowed to a crawl, and Saskatoon's job seekers are becoming desperate.

I get resumes from people who are engineers and can't find work. They're looking for anything we can provide.- Linda Mainland, Quest Staffing Services

"They'll take any positions. I get resumes from people who are engineers and can't find work. They're looking for anything we can provide. It's pretty scary."

Mainland thinks the slowdown in hiring can be linked to recent activity in the oil and potash industries, but it's hard to say for sure.

Layoffs are becoming commonplace in unrelated industries, too.

"I've been into a lot of businesses where you walk in and there's a big, beautiful reception area, but they've let their reception people go, and there's just a bell on the desk to ring for service," said Mainland.

Some job seekers are heading West, and finding employment, but others have done the same and then turned right back around.

"I've heard a lot that have come back, due to the cost of living," said Mainland.

Length of unemployment grows

Doug Elliott of Sask Trends Monitor says there is cause to worry if the unemployment rate drops in 2018. Experts are predicting a modest improvement. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
For 2018, Elliott is expecting "modest growth, a bit of an upturn, but nothing spectacular."

More people were unemployed in 2017 than the year before, and they're staying unemployed for longer.

At last count, the average length of unemployment has increased to 19 weeks. In a normal labour market, the average length of time between jobs is 14 weeks.

"After you've been out of work for three or six months and you apply for jobs, people start asking what you've been doing," said Elliott.

Some regions are thriving compared to the province as a whole. Employment is on the rise in Regina.

Certain sectors, such as manufacturing and professional services, are also surging out of the recession. However, construction and agriculture — large employers in Saskatchewan — are down in their hiring.