Friday, March 11, 2016

The Canadian Labour Congress says it is looking to the March 22 federal budget for urgent government action, after months of disappointing job growth.

The latest numbers, released today by Statistics Canada, show that the Canadian labour market continued to sputter in February. The unemployment rate rose to 7.3 percent, the highest it has been for approaching three years. The number of unemployed Canadians seeking work is up 7.2 percent over 12 months ago.

“These numbers continue to show the job crisis we’ve seen over the past several months,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff, adding that youth employment has been dropping fairly steadily since October 2014.

In February, Canada lost 52,000 full-time positions, while part-time employment rose by nearly the same amount. The largest job gains occurred in Quebec and B.C. while the heaviest losses occurred in Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. The most significant growth sectors were goods production, especially construction, while losses were concentrated in the service sector and resource industries.

Self-employment also rose again — over the past year, self-employment has grown nearly three times as fast as the number of workers in traditional jobs.

 “The federal budget on March 22 is a chance for the government to address that reality swiftly, with meaningful investments to create jobs and help unemployed workers and their community’s transition,” Yussuff stated.

Yussuff said Canadian unions will be watching for action on a number of items, including Employment Insurance reforms and investments in infrastructure projects, skills training and workforce development.

In their submission to the pre-budget consultation, the CLC outlined several specific measures the government can take to address the jobs crisis and build a fairer, more prosperous Canada. These include actions committed to during the election, which would have a direct impact on job numbers, including the following:

  • Strategic infrastructure investments, particularly in public transit infrastructure, affordable housing, and child care and seniors’ facilities;
  • Youth Employment Strategy funding to create at least 40,000 youth jobs a year;
  • Development or expansion of pre-apprenticeship training programs; and
  • Fixes to Employment Insurance to ensure unemployed workers can access benefits without unreasonable barriers and lengthy delays. This means reversing the Conservatives’ damaging changes to EI eligibility and restoring necessary front-line staff.

Yussuff pointed out that fixing Employment Insurance is one of the best things that can be done to stimulate our economies, as unemployed workers get and spend EI benefits in their local communities within weeks.

“Working Canadians and their families and communities are continuing to face a precarious economic situation, but Canada is well-positioned to turn things around. I’m looking forward to March 22, when we will see our government’s plan to make that happen,” Yussuff concluded.