Sask. unemployment rate remains steady, COVID affects how many people calling in sick and working from home
Unemployment rate in province stayed at 5.5 per cent from Dec. 2021 to Jan. 2022
Statistics Canada has released labour force numbers for the first month of 2022, and data suggests Saskatchewan fared well considering the Omicron COVID-19 wave.
The unemployment rate was steady from Dec. 2021 to Jan. 2022 at 5.5 per cent, but the number of people working in Saskatchewan increased by 3,900 in January.
"Industries where employment has increased most notably in the past three months include business, building and other support services and construction," part of the StatCan report said.
COVID-19 has played a role in things like how many workers are doing so from home. Saskatoon stood out in that regard, being the Canadian city with the lowest share of people working from home, followed closely by Abbotsford.
That could have something to do with the nature of jobs in the city, according to University of Regina associate professor of economics Jason Childs.
"Saskatoon is primarily a corporate town. It doesn't have a lot of government," he said in an interview Friday.
"If you're [in] manufacturing or other types of employment where you actually have to physically be there to be productive, it's going to be really hard to work from home."
Calling in sick is another thing COVID has changed. Across the country, Prince Edward Island saw the lowest percentage of employees off work because of sickness or disability at 7.8 per cent during the reference week of Jan. 9 to 15. Saskatchewan and British Columbia were tied at 12 per cent. For Saskatchewan, that's about four percentage points higher than a typical January.
"Part of what's driving this number is because we didn't shut anything new down, we kept everything pretty much open," Childs said.
"If where you work is closed and you get sick, you don't need to take a day off work because you're ill. If where you work is open and you get sick or have to isolate due to COVID exposure or COVID itself, you're going to take time off work."
Comparing and contrasting the approaches different regions took during the most recent wave of COVID gives a better picture of how public health measures affect the economy, Childs said.
Childs said if you look at Quebec, there is job shedding, employment is down and hours are down.
"I think those are attributable, in large part, to the lockdown and the very strict approach Quebec took," he said.
"Whereas we're seeing some growth in a lot of sectors in Saskatchewan. We didn't see lockdowns."
Did masking alone cause employment growth? No, said Childs. It more has to do with the overall approach of shutting down businesses and other things like that.
"Did not locking-down and shutting down everything allow employment growth to continue? Yes, it did," he said.