Severe worker shortages’ forecast for Alberta


CALGARY — A perfect demographic storm is developing in Alberta leading to severe worker shortages for many years to come.
Thomas Lukaszuk, Alberta’s Minister of Employment and Immigration, said the province is already starting to see labour shortages in some sectors such as the transportation and hospitality industries.
“There are companies that simply can’t find workers already,” he said. “There are sectors that are already showing inability to readily find employees at competitive price. And that will only escalate as time goes on.
“Overall, we will have severe worker shortages not only in this province but in Western Canada for many, many years to come.”
Lukaszuk said the province is heading into a perfect demographic storm.
“Very rarely do stars align like that,” he said.
Many economists have forecast Alberta’s economy to be a nation-leader in the next couple of years. Many of the Baby Boomer generation are retiring which will create a “massive exodus” of workers. That will create a void in not only numbers but experience in the workforce. The natural population growth is not replacing that exodus. And the retirees will force increased demand for various services from coffee to medical care.
On Friday, Statistics Canada reported that the province’s unemployment rate dipped to 5.4 per cent for the month, down from 5.9 per cent in April. This rate was the third lowest in the country behind Saskatchewan’s 5.0 per cent and Manitoba’s 5.3 per cent. It was also down from 6.7 per cent in May 2010.
Employment increased by 8,500 and over the previous 12 months, employment grew by 2.8 per cent, or 56,300 jobs, the fastest growth rate in the country.
In the Calgary census metropolitan area, the unemployment rate fell to 5.7 per cent in May from 5.9 per cent in April. Statistics Canada said 1,500 jobs were created in the Calgary CMA from the previous month and year-over-year employment grew by 19,200 or 2.7 per cent in the region.
Calgary’s unemployment rate was 7.6 per cent a year ago.
Danica Lelliott, 33, was hired in May to work as a server at the Wurst Restaurant and Beer Hall. As she was job hunting, Lelliott noticed the growing choices that were available to her.
“There are quite a few jobs available — especially in the service industry. People are always hiring if you’re the right kind of person — if you have the experience and have the personality,” she said.
“There’s definitely a demand for people. People are more than willing to hire.”
Michael Fotheringham, research manager at Calgary Economic Development, said the local labour numbers are a positive trend with a gain in full-time employment and a decline in part-time employment.
“I think it means that we’re possibly inching closer to possible labour shortages (and with) increased demand and shifting demographics we may not be too far off the pre-recession unemployment rate,” said Fotheringham.
He said CED is sensing a more positive mood in the business community with further capital spending and job growth in the future. He expects the unemployment rate over the summer months to hold steady but see a further reduction in the fall.
The provincial government has developed a short-term employment forecast tool to identify potential imbalances in the labour market in the near future. Sixteen occupations were listed as having a significant likelihood of shortages in the next three years.
They include retail trade managers; restaurant and food service managers; mechanical engineers; petroleum engineers; computer programmers and interactive media developers; web designers and developers; general practitioners and family physicians; registered nurses; retail trade supervisors; food service supervisors; technical sales specialists, wholesale trade; hairstylists and barbers; estheticians, electrologists and related occupations; construction millwrights and individual mechanics (except textile); heavy-duty equipment mechanics; and motor vehicle body repairers.
In Alberta, full-time employment increased by 18,200 while part-time employment decreased by 9,600 from April to May 2011.
The following industries had the most employment increases in May from the previous month in the province: Construction, 8,600; Health Care and Social Assistance, 6,300; and Information, Culture and Recreation, 5,300.
Knightsbridge Human Capital Solutions has established an executive search Calgary-based practice in Alberta to help clients respond to the emerging talent crisis which some reports say will result in a labour shortfall of 77,000 workers over the next 10 years.
“From a human capital perspective, this is a critical time for Alberta,” said Mark Hopkins, managing partner. “We believe that companies must effectively manage the leadership gap being created as an aging workforce retires in ever-increasing numbers. At the same time, we are seeing rapidly increasing activity levels, increased technical and commercial demands, and a significant shortage of specialist technical skills.”
Across the country, the federal agency said employment rose by 22,000 in May, bringing gains over the previous 12 months to 273,000 (1.6 per cent). The employment increase in May, combined with a decline in the number of people looking for work, pushed the unemployment rate down 0.2 percentage points to 7.4 per cent, it said.

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