Nature of P.E.I. jobs is shifting, but stats show economy remains strong

After some declines in the late spring, Prince Edward Island saw growing job numbers for a second month in a row in August.

Retail sector employment down, but agriculture and construction jobs are increasing

People harvesting strawberries.
Seasonally adjusted numbers show a 60 per cent increase in agricultural workers on P.E.I. for the year. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Following some declines in the late spring, Prince Edward Island posted growing job numbers for a second month in a row in August.

The unemployment rate fell below eight per cent again, according to a Statistics Canada report released Friday. At 7.6 per cent, it was about the same as where it started the year.

"There are early indications that the economy is facing a little bit of headwind, but P.E.I. is generally doing quite well," said Fred Bergman, senior policy analyst with the Atlantic Economic Council.

The Island's economy has 6,000 more jobs than it did at the start of the year, just enough to keep pace with a rapidly growing population.

That job growth is despite a decline in one of the Island's biggest employers, the wholesale and retail sector. The sector has dropped about 1,000 jobs this year, falling to 10,200 positions in August. 

head shot of Fred Bergman.
Retail is changing, and that could be the reason there are fewer workers in that sector on P.E.I., says Fred Bergman. (CBC)

Bergman sees a number of possible factors coming together that could be having an impact on jobs in the retail sector. Inflation may be changing people's shopping patterns, and retail managers may still be adjusting staffing levels to take into account that more people started shopping online during the pandemic, and are still doing it.

He is also seeing more self checkouts being installed in a variety of different stores, which could be lowering staffing requirements.

An ever-changing sector

While some of the declines in the sector Bergman describes are structural, he expects retail to remain a big part of the P.E.I. job picture.

"Retail is one of those industries where the dynamic is constantly changing, but I think we're always going to like shopping," he said.

"They'll always be demand for retail goods. How we buy those goods certainly will change."

Some of the loss in retail was made up by agriculture, which posted 5,000 jobs in August. Seasonally adjusted numbers for the sector show job growth in every month since February, and are up more than 60 per cent for the year.

Bergman notes farm cash receipts were up for the first half of this year, and that could have farmers taking advantage of the extra revenue to hiring more help.

The construction industry has also seen strong growth, adding 1,500 jobs this year to reach 8,200 positions.


Kevin Yarr is the early morning web journalist at CBC P.E.I. Kevin has a specialty in data journalism, and how statistics relate to the changing lives of Islanders. He has a BSc and a BA from Dalhousie University, and studied journalism at Holland College in Charlottetown. You can reach him at