'Try offering higher wages': Economist offers job vacancy solution
'We just don't pay people in the trades as much as they can make other places'
P.E.I. had one of the highest job vacancy rates in Canada in 2018, and a UPEI economist suggests the wages being offered may be part of the issue.
A Statistics Canada report released Monday found 3.4 per cent of available jobs on the Island were vacant. Among the provinces only the rate in B.C. was higher: 4.6 per cent. The report also found the growth in the vacancy rate — 27 per cent — was second highest of the provinces, behind Quebec at 28 per cent.
UPEI economics Prof. Jim Sentance said P.E.I. wages, which are the lowest in Canada, are likely an issue.
"Every time there's a story about employers can't find workers … my economist friends on Twitter immediately slap their heads and say, 'Try offering higher wages,'" he said.
While the vacancy rate has climbed, wages being offered have scarcely moved, going from $15.25 in 2017 to $15.46 in 2018.
Labour market mismatch
The problem starts, Sentance said, with an aging population matched with a lot of jobs being created in the Island economy over the last few years.
"We're getting to the point where people leaving the labour force as they retire are going to be leaving it in larger numbers than people coming into the labour force out of high school or university," he said.
That has been offset by immigration, but it's still not keeping up.
Outside of wages, there could be a mismatch with the skills people have and the skills needed for those jobs, or a mismatch of where the jobs are and where the people are.
Sentance said a lot of the vacant jobs are in the trades, transport and equipment operators sector, and pay being offered in that sector makes it difficult to attract workers or even retain the ones the Island has.
"We just don't pay people in the trades as much as they can make other places so it doesn't make sense to stay here, [and] certainly not to come here if you can get paid significantly more somewhere else," he said.