Low unemployment rates makes for employees’ market

With an unemployment rate in east-central Alberta at 2.6 per cent, the job market in the community is definitely

With an unemployment rate in east-central Alberta at 2.6 per cent, the job market in the community is definitely that of the employee, according to at least one employer in town.

When the employment rate falls so low, it becomes difficult to find and to keep employees, according to Chris Strachey, the regional communications manager for Alberta Works. A comfortable unemployment rate for a community is about five per cent, he noted.

“If it’s under five per cent, employers start having job vacancies or begin having a hard time keeping employees,” he said.

While he said Alberta’s booming job market – one of the most aggressive market in the country for the past several years – has changed, Alberta is still a destination province for people from the eastern provinces, where good-paying work can be harder to find.

The era of people coming with no experience and being able to pick up a high-paying job simply by being present is coming to an end, however.

“We don’t see as much of that now,” he said. “For people with experience and with a good work ethic, though, the opportunities still exist.”

Though the east-central area stretches from Red Deer all the way to the Saskatchewan border, Strachey was able to elaborate more on Stettler specifically.

“There are 52 Stettler jobs posted on the Canada-Alberta job bank right now in a wide variety of fields, including trades, health care, retail, oilfield, transportation, warehousing, sales, agriculture and restaurants,” he said in an email. “Jobs range from high-skill to low skill/entry level.”

Alberta Works Centre in Stettler has a consistent flow of clients, with about 400 visits per month, he said, adding that the number is just heads through the door. Some people may come more than once.

According to Strachey, the province is likely to be short 96,000 workers by 2023.

When the markets collapsed in 2008, even Alberta’s employment dipped, but numbers from the province show a steady increase over the past several years. In October 2013, the province saw roughly 2,230,500 employed. This year, the number has risen to just over 2,290,000.

Hospitality struggles to keep employees

People visiting Boston Pizza can find its manager, Matt Ghesquire, taking on all sorts of duties. Some days he works in the kitchen and other days he acts as host. He’s delivered pizzas to households and he’s acted as a server.

“You can’t have this sort of job unless you’re willing to work 70-hour weeks,” he said during a brief break.

Ghesquire has managed Boston Pizza for a year now, but has a long history in the service industry. He was brought to Stettler by his employer to learn the kitchen, as aspect of the job with which he was not yet familiar, and he found himself becoming the restaurant manager instead.

“It can be hard to find good employees,” he said. “A lot of people view these sort of jobs as a ‘stop over,’ especially restaurant jobs.”

Ghesquire said he sometimes sees resumes with more than four or five jobs listed in a year or two-year window, something that sets off alarm bells in his head.

“People are looking for a quick buck,” he said. “These resumes are people who’ll leave a job for another down the street because of a 25-cent difference.”

With so many jobs available, he also finds a lot of employees aren’t willing to accept that the hospitality industry isn’t a 9-5 job.

“A lot of employees want shift flexibility that isn’t realistic for the industry,” Ghesquire said. Weekends and evenings off aren’t possible for everyone.

Despite the troubles he has finding employees who can be relied upon to understand the responsibilities of the industry and stick with it, Ghesquire said he’s found some gems.

“I have quite a few fantastic employees,” he said. “Leah and Kendra, they come and go back and forth to Australia, but when they come back? I’d hire them back in a second.”

Work ethic makes a difference, too.

“There’s Carter, he’s 14, a dishwasher,” Ghesquire said. “He’s just driven and he’s going to go places.”

Ghesquire noted it can be frustrating to train people only to see them leave, but he knows that if he undertrains people and they stay, he’s only setting up the restaurant for failure. Still, he wishes employees would have a bit more consideration when leaving the job.

He’s had people quit with no notice or little notice, leaving others to fill the gaps. When a delivery driver quits five minutes before his shift – or worse, quits by not showing up – it’s another employee that has to shoulder that weight, he noted.

And that’s how he, the manager, ends up being a delivery driver.