Unemployment up, but jobs still waiting to be filled

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The unemployment rate may be on the rise in northeast B.C., but there’s still plenty of work to be had, local officials say.

The unemployment rate for this corner of the province hit 5.9 per cent last month, according to BC Stats, up sharply from 4.7 per cent posted for April. It was the third straight month unemployment has risen in the region.

But it’s not for a lack of jobs as there are plenty still waiting to filled, according to the local Employment Connections office.

The agency has nearly 160 job ads posted for employers in Fort St. John and the surrounding area. Though oil and gas postings may have stagnated since the winter, there’s high demand for workers in the retail, hospitality, and skilled trades sectors.

“If people want to work there’s work,” said Jeanette Karasiuk, the agency’s client services manager.

“But what happens is people have become accustomed to certain standard of living.”

Some 40,100 people were employed in the region last month, down from 40,400 in April, according to statistics.

Roanne Medina, who co-ordinates job postings with local employers, says postings range from janitorial to dental assistants to camp cooks and housekeepers, to Class 1 drivers, and traffic controllers. A quick scan of the postings also show plenty of postings for mechanics, pilots, engineers, welders, business managers, and youth workers.

Medina reports many companies that are posting ads with the agency are often extending postings as they struggle to retain new hires who show up for work for a few days or weeks until they get paid and abruptly move on. That’s particularly true for retailers and hospitality operators in the city, Medina said.

“Each company is asking me put ‘must be a reliable person’ on their ads,” Medina said.

Medina says the current number of job ads is an average number for the agency, though she notes Employment Connections saw a peak of about 215 postings last October.

People looking to get in on Site C work

Karasiuk says there has been an rise in the number of people filing for employment insurance, but notes those numbers are a bit skewed due to the transient nature of many workers in the area.

Others still are visiting the agency for help with career retraining, Karasiuk said.

“You tend to see, when the unemployment rate is higher, people considering options for training and what the availability is there,” she said, noting skilled trades workers are still in high demand for work and training.

Meanwhile, Karasiuk says the agency is seeing more and more inquiries from people looking to find work on the Site C dam construction

“There’s a lot of buzz about Site C, and inquires about ‘Who do we apply to?’ and ‘Who are the successful proponents?'” she said.

Unemployment down in BC, unchanged across Canada

Overall unemployment in B.C. took a small dip, down from 6.3 to 6.1 per cent for May.

The Cariboo region posted the highest unemployment figures for May at 7.7 per cent, another sharp increase from 6.7 per cent posted for the region in April.

Kelowna sat with the lowest unemployment in the province at 4.7 per cent.

Canada’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.8 per cent for May.