PEI

P.E.I. jobs for men back to normal, women struggling

The number of men in jobs on P.E.I. in November was virtually the same as it was in January, but working women have made no progress in returning to pre-pandemic levels since the summer.

'The pandemic really showed a lot of the chronic issues that women face in the workforce'

Retail and hospitality have been the hardest hit sectors of the economy, and that has affected women more than men. (CBC)

The number of men in jobs on P.E.I. in November was virtually the same as it was in January, but working women have made no progress in returning to pre-pandemic levels since the summer.

There were more jobs on P.E.I. in November, continuing a trend that has been relatively steady since job numbers crashed in the pandemic lockdown in April.

Job growth slowed a little in the fall. In November it was up 1.3 per cent to 77,400, which was well above the national increase of 0.3 per cent.

The labour force on the Island grew a little faster than jobs, driving the unemployment rate up slightly, from 10.0 to 10.2 per cent. The unemployment rate has hardly moved since September, with growth in the labour force mostly matching the growth in jobs.

But while the overall picture is relatively good, the position of women in the workforce is not.

"Looks very much like the labour force effects for men are completely gone and we've gone back to being a booming province," said UPEI economist Jim Sentance.

"For youth and women, things are still down. Participation is still down, whether due to having to take care of kids or because work isn't available."

Jobs for men were down about five per cent in the summer but only 0.2 per cent last month. Women looked like they might be seeing some recovery in August, but fell to 7.2 per cent below January numbers in November.

'Build gender equality across all industries'

"Unfortunately, I think it's not surprising," said Jillian Kilfoil, executive director of Women's Network P.E.I., of the numbers.

'We need to re-examine some of the gains that women have made over the past number of decades in the workforce, and think critically about how resilient those gains were,' says Jillian Kilfoil of Women's Network P.E.I. (Tony Davis/CBC)

"The pandemic really showed a lot of the chronic issues that women face in the workforce." 

Women's work tends to be more vulnerable and precarious, she said, and women end up earning less. 

"I think what we really saw with the pandemic is women are overrepresented in industries that aren't as resilient," she said, such as hospitality and tourism.

"I think looking forward, we really need to build gender equality across all industries to ensure that workers are protected regardless of their gender." 

Kilfoil applauded the government's efforts with the Workforce Integration Fund, which was announced last month, and said her group has applied for funds. She also urged people to reconsider stereotypes they have around things like women performing jobs in trades. 

Government program

The government is hopeful its COVID-19 Workforce Integration Fund will help address the inequities in the recovery.

The fund will support projects to help Islanders gain the skills and knowledge to find long-lasting jobs.

In particular, the government is looking for proposals that will support people and groups most highly impacted by the pandemic, including women, youth, members of the Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) community, newcomers, social assistance recipients and Islanders living with disabilities.

The deadline for proposals was 2 p.m. Friday.

More from CBC P.E.I.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Yarr is the early morning web journalist at CBC P.E.I. You can reach him at kevin.yarr@cbc.ca.

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