21.8 people unemployed for every vacancy in N.L.: StatsCan

Daniel MacEachern
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Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest number of unemployed people for every open job vacancy of any province in Canada — and the figure is rising.

Statistics Canada released figures of provincial and national unemployment-to-job vacancies ratios this week, with Newfoundland and Labrador’s ratio calculated as 21.8 in March 2013. The ratio means that for every job vacancy, there are nearly 22 people in the province unemployed, a leap of more than a third over the province’s 16.6 figure a year earlier, is 73 per cent higher than the second-worst provincial figure (New Brunswick, at 12.6), and more than three times the national average of 6.4.

The report attributes the sharp increase to a declining number of job vacancies in the province, with less decline in the number of unemployed people. March’s number of unemployed people (a figure that is actually the average of the three months ending in March) was 35,000, down from 37,300 the year before, while the number of vacancies in March this year was 1,600, down from 2,200 the year before.

The figures fly in the face of both the province’s unemployment rate — 11.6 per cent as of May, making it the worst in the country — and the warnings of a labour shortage causing headaches for businesses in the province.

Lana Payne, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, said the ratio is partially due to how the unemployed are counted.

“We have a lot of folks who show up as unemployed but really what they are is employed in seasonal employment. It’s more underemployment than unemployment in some cases. And it’s where those folks are living, compared to where the jobs are. The jobs might be in the city, but the larger numbers of unemployed may be in other parts of the province,” she said.

But employers still need to adjust to “the new normal,” said Payne.

“We’re still seeing employers saying it’s a labour shortage, but is it really a labour shortage, or is it a combination of wage shortage — in other words, wages not being sufficient enough to attract people from other areas and uproot their families — and a skills mismatch? What the labour market needs, what the job vacancies are requiring of people, we may not be seeing the folks who need the jobs having the skills for them. I think there’s a combination of factors here.”

Richard Alexander, director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council, said Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest unemployment rate in the country, but employers are still having a harder time filling vacancies than they did 10 years ago, a problem exacerbated by several factors, he said.

“One is that individuals that are unemployed don’t have the skill sets, the education, the background, to take vacancies that are available,” he said. “Two, there could be geographical barriers, so individuals don’t have a willingness or are unable to move to areas where the job vacancy exists, or people are just unwilling to take those types of jobs. So the combination of those three things are contributing to this stat.”

Alexander said government employment programs need to be better equipped to take advantage of the vacancies, whether that’s access to training programs or even just better awareness of what positions are available, and praised the federal government’s recent changes to employment insurance that change guidelines of what type of work an EI recipient should be prepared to take, for how much pay, and how far away the job might be.


“What’s disappointing is that there are groups out there that are fighting against the changes that have recently come to employment insurance,” Alexander said. “The group I work for, they’re reporting a very, very positive experience with changes to employment insurance. Anything that can provide incentives and awareness to people to move off EI and into full-time employment is good for our province.”

Employers need to be more innovative in how they attract people, said Payne.

“No longer do they have a stack of 500 résumés sitting on their desk,” she said, adding there’s a disconnect between claims of a labour shortage while unions at the bargaining table receiving concessionary-driven proposals. “On the one hand, you get employers saying, ‘We can’t attract skilled folks.’ But on the other hand we get these concessions at the table that are contradictory to (what) the labour market issues tend to raise.”

Alexander said he expects the ratio will come down. “As a province with a very small population, and a very small workforce in comparison to provinces like Ontario and Quebec and Alberta, because the data set is so small, it’s susceptible to fluctuations from year to year,” he said. “What’s important to us as a province is to pay attention to this number, but we want to look at the long-term trends.” If in a few years that ratio is still climbing, said Alexander, that would be something to be worried about.

RBC economist Laura Cooper also said the high ratio of seasonal and public-sector workers affects the number.

“Newfoundland has the highest share of its employed people in the public sector, at 30 per cent, which is above the national average,” she said. “So when you exclude that segment of the labour force, it doesn’t really give you an accurate gauge of what’s going on, necessarily, in terms of employment. If we look more along the lines of unemployment rates, we see that, year-to-date, the unemployment rate in Newfoundland is around 11.9 per cent. The same period last year, over the first five months, is 12.7, and that’s a better gauge, in our view, of looking at the employment situation in the province.”



Twitter: @TelegramDaniel


Organizations: Statistics Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, Newfoundland and Labrador Employers RBC

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, N.L., Canada New Brunswick Ontario Quebec Alberta

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Recent comments

  • John
    June 25, 2013 - 09:42

    It's unfortunate that the unemployment rate is so high, but what do these businesses expect when most of them offer only minimum wage or a little higher? With the "economic boom", shouldn't wages go up to meet the increased cost of living here? Of course, but Newfoundland businesses try and cheap out employees who have families to raise and bills to pay. This province also has the highest rate of out-migration of youth, and consequently the most aging province. People who want a better life for themselves need to move away out West where employers offer incentive such as pensions and high wages, none of which they can find here with NL businesses.

    • david
      June 25, 2013 - 16:13

      Your question is completely backwards......which is precisely the reason why Newfoundland has never had any economy. There is nothing here forcing employers to offer higher wages...What drives employment and wages is a strong economy (Strike 1) with skilled workers (Strike 2) in highly competitive demand (Strike 3). Next batter.

    • a business man
      June 26, 2013 - 07:05

      Wrong. People who want a better life need to acquire skills and an education. Economic boom or not, those who are only qualified to lift a box or pour a cup of coffee are still only worth the lowest legal wage. Yes, the cost of living has gone up, but note that the employee still does the same job. The employee has not added value to their performance. Yes they have bills to pay, that that does not mean they are worth more in the market place. Look, I have bills to pay too as an employer. I make decent profits. I certainly could afford to pay more. I certainly could afford to pay a pension or provide health benefits. But I refuse to do so for unskilled workers because I beleive they are not worth it, and because I have a box full of resumes of people who will do the job for minimum wage for life. Sadly, some people have made choices that will limit them to minimum wage jobs for the rest of their lives. They made that choice, not me. All can do now is profit from the low skilled workers and ensure that my kids don't end up like that.

    • M
      June 27, 2013 - 09:13

      Mr Business Man doesn't seem to understand how inflation works. As prices of goods and services go up, so too should wages in order to compensate for the lack of purchasing power minimum wage would then afford your workers. Just because their skills haven't increased does not mean that those "unskilled workers" should have to live in absolute destitution because of your unwillingness to pay them. I've done it before and I would do it again, but working two jobs to maintain your standard of living is absolute hell. And if you think your workers are not worth health benefits or pensions, watch how long you keep workers. Additionally, not all those workers are unskilled. I don't know how many amazingly educated people I have met in call centres and fast food. People with degrees in hospitality, chemistry, certifications for welding, HEO, and more. But these people resign themselves to your shitty offerings because they want to stay home near their family. People who can't get hired in their trade because no one wants to sign off on their apprenticeship hours. Or people with university degrees who are turned away for being "overqualified" as if there's ever such a thing. You, my friend, need a big dose of reality in the form of working for these shitty wages for a while. It's not easy work. There is zero appreciation (from bosses and any customers you deal with), lousy pay, and few benefits if any. Those boxes can break your back, and that coffee can burn you. To do these jobs safely and well takes a lot of care and attention. You would do well to realise that.

  • Blair Brookfield
    June 23, 2013 - 03:15

    Newfoundland has the highest unemployment in the world. Just sucks. It has always been this way, and always will be. If you've got any kind of ambition; get out. Newfoundland was a great place to grow up, but leave once you turn eighteen or you will stunt your development.

  • stevencdn
    June 22, 2013 - 16:21

    Or let's do like Quebec,fudge the GDP and welfare numbers to attract money from the federal

    • david
      June 24, 2013 - 06:36

      Yes.....when I think of EI abuse, I think "Quebec"! And that rakes it hard for all the "honestly unemployed" Newfoundlanders....ha ha ha has ha.

  • david
    June 22, 2013 - 10:08

    And what would the unemployment rate be if every second person with a job didn't work for the government?! I'd guess 20% on the Avalon, and at least 50% in the rest of the province.

  • Wild Rose
    June 22, 2013 - 07:22

    Theirs no excuse for someone not to be working who wants to work..Their are to many lay people. Cut them off welfare and make them work.

  • They Still Do Not Get It
    June 21, 2013 - 16:02

    Lana Payne still does not get it does she. She still believes that the main reason why companies are having hard times attracting skilled workers is the wages. Wages contrary to popular union belief are no that much lower here than out west (I am speaking from experience). The main difference (at least for the club of approximately 20k Newfoundlanders I am part of in Alberta) is lifestyle. For example: I make 43.28 an hour in my trade out here in Alberta that equates to $2431.13 bi weekly after takes. Now if I was working in Newfoundland it would be $1717.82 bi weekly after taxes. So for anyone to say the wages are drastically hire in Alberta they are mistaken. Those $60 an hour jobs everyone back home fantasizes about us making are wrong, very few people in trades earn that salary and those that do have considerable experience behind them.