Friday, November 8, 2013

OTTAWA ― The President of the Canadian Labour Congress says Ottawa should admit that seasonal unemployment is a reality in Canada and design the Employment Insurance system accordingly.

“We all know that seasonal work is a fact of life in Canada, not only in fisheries and agriculture but among people who work for provinces, cities, towns and municipalities,” says Ken Georgetti. “Let’s stop denying this and have an open conversation about how best to deal with it.”

Georgetti was commenting on the release by Statistics Canada of its Labour Force Survey for February 2013. There were 1,332,600 unemployed Canadians in February, and the unemployment rate was 7.0%. In the 15 to 24 age group, unemployment stood at 13.6%, and 47.8% of young workers are employed only part-time.

The government forced legislation through parliament in 2012 that makes it more difficult for seasonal unemployed workers to receive Employment Insurance benefits. “The real problem is that we have sustained high unemployment in Canada and we have a sluggish economy with little or no economic growth,” Georgetti says. “It’s time to stop blaming unemployed workers for that and to give them a hand up instead.”

Georgetti says that Canada’s future prosperity depends on a skilled and educated workforce. “Unfortunately, we fall well below the OECD norm in skills training for employees and in employer investment in skills training generally.”

The CLC is calling for a national skills development strategy in cooperation with provinces, cities and municipalities to respond to a growing skills gap, an ageing workforce, and the specific needs of groups such as Aboriginals, recent immigrants, and youth. Georgetti adds, “If we do this and get it right, it will translate into enormous economic and productivity gains, and ensure real equality of opportunity.”

Quick Analysis from CLC Senior Economist Angella MacEwen

Employment increased by just over 50,000 in February, but that wasn't enough to keep up with the growth in the labour market — there were still an additional 10,000 persons officially unemployed. Growth was concentrated in the professional, scientific and technical, and accommodation and food services industries. Manufacturing employment declined by 25,600. The real unemployment rate stands at 10.8%, and for youth aged 15 to 24 it's 19.8%. The increase in full time work was mainly for men over 55, while youth saw an increase in part-time work.

The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.3 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada’s national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils. Web site: Follow us on Twitter @CanadianLabour

Contacts:  Angella MacEwen, CLC Senior Economist, 613-526-7412