Saskatchewan has both the lowest unemployment rate in the country as well as the fastest rising number of people receiving unemployment benefits.
Some may wonder how this is possible.
According to the Saskatchewan government it’s because the workforce is as big as it has ever been.
“I think what’s going on here is the economy has grown so much over the last eight years and the workforce has grown,” said James Parker, senior communications advisor for the Saskatchewan Party.
“It’s no surprise that we have a large number of people on unemployment even though our unemployment rate is the lowest in Canada, because the workforce has grown so much over the last little while.”
According to a press release from the Saskatchewan Party that came out on Feb. 5, there were 5,200 more people working this January compared to that of 2015.
This represents an employment growth rate 5.2 per cent, seasonally adjusted, which is the lowest rate among the provinces and below Canada’s average of 7.2 per cent.
The opposition NDP aren’t satisfied with these numbers, though, as deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon said the province should be doing better.
“The reality is that the unemployment rate is getting worse in that families are losing jobs and are without jobs,” Wotherspoon said.
“Statistically — the hard number that really can’t be spun — is we had more people than ever in Sask. history that are unemployed.”
The number of people getting employment insurance rose 35 per cent compared to a year ago, and the amount of people receiving E.I. rose 4.6 per cent between October and November, 2015.
“This is the difficult reality that many families are facing, a real hardship, and it’s one that shouldn’t be dismissed or disregarded by the provincial government.”
Though there were 5,200 more people working this January compared to the previous year, the labour force actually decreased by 1,500 people in the month from December 2015 to January 2016.
Wotherspoon said there are a number of factors that have led to the situation, including challenges with the oil sector that have caused a ripple effect on workers across many different sectors.
One of the bigger factors, according to the NDP, is problems in construction and manufacturing where the government has been giving contracts to foreign corporations.
The province has world class companies and workers, said Wotherspoon, and the opposition finds it wrong to be spending money outside of Saskatchewan.
“They (government) have to stop shipping all of our tax payers money, public money, outside Saskatchewan to foreign corporations,” he said.
“They have to start investing here in Saskatchewan with the incredible businesses we have in this province, creating good mortgage-paying jobs for the first-class workers that we have within Saskatchewan.”
The Saskatchewan Party didn’t dispute that there was a rise in unemployment, but still focuses on the upside of having the lowest unemployment rate in the country.
The province has maintained this status for 27 of the last 28 months, and the government attributes the numbers to a strong and diverse economy.
Jeremy Harrison, minister of immigration, jobs, skills and training, said there are plenty of businesses in the province that are hiring.
“We are seeing many employers still looking for workers, including K+S Potash who are looking to fill 100 jobs in various positions as they complete the legacy mine project at Bethune,” he said in the release.
In January the province also saw a growth in healthcare and social assistance sectors, which were up 5,000 employees; information, culture and recreation sectors were also up by 5,000; trade was up 3,400 and professional, scientific and technical services saw a 2,300 increase.