Job vacancies in Yukon close to passing number of unemployed people

Employers in the service industry are reporting 'worst ever' conditions for finding new staff.

Employers reporting 'worst ever' conditions for finding new staff in the service industry

Mark Wykes, the owner of the Independent Grocer, recently faced what he says is the worst labour shortage he's ever seen in the city. (Dave Croft/CBC)

This fall has been the worst ever for finding employees, says the owner of the Independent grocery store in Whitehorse.

Labour shortages in the service and other industries are not new in Yukon.

But some employers, like Independent owner Mark Wykes, cannot remember a time when it's been as bad as it has been in recent months.

"It's really tough on the people," Wykes said. "They're picking up the slack or they're working overtime they don't necessarily want to, just to make sure that we're meeting the customers' needs."

He said, however, hiring has just picked up over the past couple of weeks so the situation is not as dire as it had been.

Hundreds of service-sector jobs vacant in Yukon

Likewise, Lee Bodie, the manager of a general store in Carmacks, said he's had some recent hires, but was desperate in the summer.

"It's been probably one of the worst years ever for us running a business in Carmacks, it's just very tough finding qualified people to do the job and get them to move here," said Bodie.

Lee Bodie, manager of the Tatchun Centre in Carmacks, says it advertises worldwide for employees, but still comes up short. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

The staff shortage facing employers is reflected in figures released by Statistics Canada.

They show Yukon, at 5.1 per cent, had the highest job vacancy rate in the country in the second-quarter of this year. The agency says there were 890 vacant jobs in the territory.

In October, it says 900 people were unemployed so the number of people of looking for work is almost identical to the number of available jobs.

The statistics indicate the majority of the vacancies were in sales and service occupations followed by the trades and transport and equipment operators.

Employers look for ways to attract new staff

Wykes said because of the remoteness of Yukon communities, there aren't many options for finding new employees.

The best option, he said, is to treat existing employees well and be flexible in accommodating their shift preferences.

Wykes said he's also recently begun offering bonuses to staff who recommend a potential employee who is hired and makes it through the probationary period.

Bodie says the store he manages offers housing to employees as an added incentive.

It also advertises worldwide and hires people through the Yukon Nominee program. It allows people from foreign countries to work in the territory and eventually become permanent Canadian residents.

"We can't find Canadians who want to work," he said.

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