Employment Insurance beneficiaries soar in Calgary and Alberta

Alberta’s jobless ranks are continuing to rise following another spike in employment insurance claimants.

Statistics Canada said Thursday that the number of Albertans collecting jobless benefits grew 9 per cent to 38,750 in March, the second largest monthly increase since June 2009 and 25 per cent more than a year ago.

Julia Cordray, chief executive of Calgary recruitment firm Career Fox, said the growing unemployment numbers are reflected by the flurry of job applicants recently drawn to the company’s website.

“We were already getting probably 15 to 20 people submitting their resumes to us a day. We’re now getting 40,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

Cordray said growing unemployment across the province will be an opportunity for business owners in some sectors to bolster their staffs.

“You’ve got an abundance of candidates on the market. You’ve got better candidates on the market for cheaper,” she said. “They’ve all been humbled and they’re willing to negotiate on salaries and contract.”

Statistics Canada said EI beneficiaries in Calgary grew by about 8 per cent to 12,000 people in March. Nationally, EI recipients rose 1.1 per cent from February and by 0.5 per cent from March 2014, the first year-over-year increase since February 2010.

The biggest increases occurred among recipients whose last job was in processing, manufacturing and utilities (+21.6 per cent), natural and applied sciences (19.7 per cent) or primary industry (18.9 per cent), the federal agency reported.

Rochelle Dvorkin, of Dvorkin Personnel, an executive search firm in Calgary, said February and March were difficult months for local companies, though the employment picture appeared to stabilize in April.

“Small to medium-sized companies decided that they were going to capitalize on all these layoffs and bring in these people without having to compete with the oil and gas companies — the big companies — on salaries and getting these people,” said Dvorkin.

Laid-off workers are more willing to take on contract positions rather than search for full-time positions in the tightening job market, she said.

“There’s a lot of people to weed through to get to the good ones, but there’s hiring going on,” said Dvorkin.

Todd Hirsch, chief economist with ATB Financial, said the 25 per cent year-over-year increase in EI recipients appears more alarming than it is, given Alberta had a very low number of EI recipients last year.

“It doesn’t take too much of an increase to get a 25 per cent jump,” said Hirsch. “We’re still, compared to the other provinces — even with this big increase — by far the lowest in terms of EI claimants as a proportion of the labour market.”

Enform this week said as many as 185,000 direct and indirect job could be lost in Canada this year due to cutbacks within the energy sector. The industry group’s report said the potential losses would represent a 25 per cent drop in the number of jobs the sector supports.

The industry is expected to spend $94 billion this year, down from $125 billion last year, it said.

ATB Financial economist Nick Ford said new job vacancy numbers confirm slumping energy prices have taken a toll on jobs in Alberta.

He said 1.8 per cent of all jobs in the province were vacant in February, down from 2.4 per cent a year ago.

“The most recent job vacancy statistics for Alberta shows a softer job market and a lack of employment positions in our province may be starting to appear,” he said.

Mario Toneguzzi, Calgary Herald

Published on: May 21, 2015 | Last Updated: May 21, 2015 7:10 PM MST

Article: http://calgaryherald.com/business/local-business/employment-insurance-beneficiaries-soar-in-calgary-and-alberta