Sunday, February 7, 2010

Saskatchewan Job Numbers: Let The Spin Begin

Source: CBC News: Sask. Politicians Put Spin on Job Numbers

Well, a new year and new figures have come out reporting on how provinces are doing in regards to economic recovery. The Saskatchewan Party Government has come out and released their statistics for Saskatchewan and have begun telling residents why it's good news.

According to Rob Norris, our minister for advanced education and employment and labour, Saskatchewan boasted a 4.7% unemployment rate, an increase from the 4.2% rate from January 2009. Furthermore, Norris claimed that Saskatchewan's population was at an all time high and workers in the province were receiving higher wages.

Enter the NDP with a few figures of their own for Mr. Norris. The NDP have stated that Saskatchewan has lost 1,600 jobs compared to 2009. The government countered this by saying that full time jobs have seen an increase of 7,200 people. Let's explore this for a moment.

Now, while the report doesn't say what 1,600 jobs were lost and what 7,200 full time jobs were gained, let's play a little bit of the hypothetical game. Let's assume that those 1,600 people who lost their jobs worked in a specialized area. For the same of the game, let's say accounting or teaching, or any other job that requires a university degree or extra training outside of secondary school.

Now, let's assume that all of those 7,200 jobs are not in specialized fields. Let's assume that these range from sales jobs to working as servers in restaurants. Now, I'm not attacking these types of jobs, before anyone accuses me of doing so. What I am saying is that in our province there is clearly a larger amount of lower paying, non-specialized jobs than there are jobs for specialized workers. These jobs are no less important than specialized jobs, but they limit the workforce and prevent Saskatchewan from obtaining its full potential in creating the jobs of the future and further prevent Saskatchewan from keeping an educated workforce within the province, mainly because there are not enough jobs for University and Technical Degree graduates in province.

So, let's go back to our 1,600 people who lost their jobs. Let's assume that all 1,600 spent four or more years in University or College, and have earned their degree in a chosen field. Now, let's assume that since their jobs were lost, they've been forced to work in non-specialized fields; helping to inflate the 7,200 full time jobs that are being touted by our government.

If this is the case, should we be applauding a government that allowed 1,600 specialized jobs to disappear in order to create 7,200 non-specialized jobs? I don't believe so.

Now, I don't have the numbers for how many of the 1,600 lost jobs were actually specialized or non-specialized; nor how many of the 7,200 jobs created were specialized or non-specialized. But what I do know, is that we as a province cannot maintain specialized jobs within the province we are going to suffer for it in the long run.

Saskatchewan cannot afford to lose specialized jobs for a number of reasons. Primarily, for the sake of young people within the province. Saskatchewan's population will shrink in the coming years if the jobs our young people are training for cannot be found here; which is already happening throughout the province.

Mr. Norris touted how Saskatchewan's population has hit the largest number in history. We've all heard the stories of 'Sask-a-Boom' and how ex-pats Saskatchewanians, and other Canadians, were coming to our province looking for work. How many of us have heard the stories of the people who moved here having to choose between rent and food? Between utilities or prescription medication? Far fewer of us, I'm willing to imagine.

Saskatoon experienced a major housing market boom years ago, the results of which are still felt today. People moved here hoping to find a better life, a good job and a good place to live. Instead, they're finding life hard and a government who is doing nothing but grandstanding and hoping no one scratches below the surface to see the real story behind these numbers.

Mr. Norris also touts that Saskatchewan workers are seeing an overall increase in their wages this year. Again, that increase pales when you look at the growing standard of living. The housing boom fueled an increase in rent and property taxes, without considerable housing building to ensure that we could meet the needs of Saskatchewan citizens. Rents continue to increase, especially in Saskatoon, while the standard of housing continues to drop and citizens are not getting a good trade in housing for their hard earned money. So, I ask, what good is a higher wage increase for workers when housing or food is an option many still have to consider? When someone has to put their health behind the ability to be able to have running water?

The Saskatchewan Party Government has done nothing to address these problems, and likely never will, since their idea of fixing a problem seems to be as Johnny Mercer would say, to accentuate the positive.

Now, I realize that there are going to be people who think that specialized jobs don't matter. That just having a University Degree or Diploma, doesn't entitle the holder to a job. That those people should climb down from their ivory towers and go get a job where they can find it.

But what happens when that isn't an option? I'm one of many university graduates, who cannot find a job in my chosen field. Furthermore, I can't find a job outside of my chosen field. I've gone into places asking for applications or to drop off a resume, only to be told (on numerous occasions) that current staff are going to be scaled back on hours, and that they won't be doing any hiring soon.

For non-specialized jobs, this is quickly becoming the norm; hearing that operations are being scaled back and that hiring is slowing or non-existent. And yet, the Saskatchewan Party never mentions this statistic. They never talk about how people who have studied for years to be trained for a CAREER, are stuck looking for just a JOB and in many cases unable to find it.

On a side note, I would also like to put out a message of well wishing for Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton, who was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. I'm wishing the best to Jack, and hoping for a speedy recovery.

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