Alberta to work with feds to continue to meet labour needs

Unemployment in Alberta is at 4.4%, with 21,000 new jobs in September.

Year-to-year, employment was up by 54,000 jobs.

“Alberta looks forward to working with the federal government on immigration and labour force strategies that respond to market demands, and ensure we have the workers we need to drive our economy. Alberta will need access to skilled and unskilled labour to meet the needs of our economy, including the recruitment of Canadians from other provinces, temporary foreign workers and permanent immigrants,” said Premier Jim Prentice in a press release.

Nationally, women and youth saw the biggest increases with 43,000 more youth aged 15 to 24 employed, although the youth employment rate kept steady.

Women aged 25 to 54 saw an increase of 16,000 in employment nationally, while the unemployment rate dropped 0.5 percentage points to 5.1%

Federal Minister Jason Kenney in Edmonton on Thursday said he wants to see Albertans who are unemployed – whether they’re looking for work or not – get jobs before temporary foreign workers.

Kenney and Prentice met with Alberta Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Minister Ric McIver to talk about the provincial nomination program, federal immigration programs, industry participation and temporary foreign workers.

“We acknowledge that there are very significant labour challenges in Alberta because of the greater economic growth here and I think we both agree Canadians should come first in accessing available jobs and temporary foreign worker program should be a last and limited resort,” Kenney said.

He added a market problem’s best solution is a market solution.

“That means, typically, you would see higher wages, better salaries and benefits, more active recruitment measures, perhaps assistance with housing and transportation, more flexible working shifts, better living conditions,” he said. “Those are the right market responses, but there will continue to be access to overseas workers if, and only if, Canadian employers can demonstrate qualified Canadians are not applying for these jobs.”

Prentice also met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday to discuss Alberta’s priorities.

On Labour Day, Public Interest Alberta commented on Statistics Canada data that showed  383,900 (20.5%) of all employed workers, earn less than $15 an hour, with 77% of those low-wage workers being older than 20.

Women make up the bulk of those low-wage earners at 62%, or 76,700 of Edmonton’s 123,700 low-income earners.

catherine.griwkowsky@sunmedia.ca

@SunGriwkowskyC

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