Minister quizzed on higher jobless rate
By Ainslie Cruickshank on April 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm
Photo by Whitehorse Star
The Yukon’s unemployment rate rose last month, coming in higher than February’s rate and that of March 2011.
If the trend of the previous two years continues, however, the rate will likely drop by the end of the summer.
“We saw similar jumps in the last two years where we’ve jumped up by a couple of percentage points in the unemployment rate and then recovered it and come back by the end of the summer,” Gary Brown, a senior information officer with the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, said in an interview last week.
Last month, there were 1,600 people unemployed in the Yukon, up 700 compared to March last year and up 300 from February 2012.
The Yukon’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.8 per cent, compared to the national rate of 7.2 per cent.
“In February of 2010, the unemployment rate was 7.0, and by April, that was up to 9.7 and then that dropped back down over the summer,” said Brown.
“By the end of the year, it was about five per cent.”
A similar trend was seen in 2011.
During question period in the legislature last Thursday, Kate White, the NDP MLA for Takhini-Kopper King, queried Economic Development Minister Currie Dixon about comments he had made earlier in the sitting regarding the territory’s economic situation.
“I am curious whether this knowledge of rising unemployment has changed the minister’s assessment of Yukon’s strong, diverse and healthy economy,” said White.
Dixon acknowledged that there could be some confusion stemming from the increased unemployment rate, but insisted the economy is strong.
“What appears to be a high unemployment rate is at odds with other key economic indicators we have seen recently on the state of the Yukon’s economy,” he said.
“Yukon is experiencing continued high levels of exploration and mineral production, retail trade and construction activity,” Dixon said.
“Economic growth from construction and resource sector activity bode well for employment opportunities in Yukon, leading to an expected reduced unemployment rate in future months.”
Dixon also said there is some volatility with the survey as a result of small sample numbers and sampling methodology.
White responded that the minister’s answer wouldn’t “provide any comfort to Yukoners struggling to make ends meet.
“If (the government) had a jobs vision, we would see an emphasis on workplace literacy and on-the-job training,” she said.
“We would see incentives to stimulate new industries. We’d see a plan to address persistently high unemployment in rural Yukon.
“We’d be compiling economic data on extractive industries to assist in rational planning, so more Yukoners are employed and there are less of these fly-in, fly-out jobs,” said White.
Dixon repeated the economy is strong.
“I would say that we’ve made considerable investments in diversifying our economy and ensuring that we’ve got a healthy, strong economy,” he said.
“I would say that Yukon continues to be a market for jobs; people wanting to find jobs in Canada can come to Yukon to find those jobs here.”
In March, Canada’s unemployment rate dropped by 0.4 percentage points compared to March 2011, while the Yukon’s rose by 3.3 percentage points.
The territory’s seasonally adjusted employment diminished in March by 100 people as compared to March last year, and 500 compared to February 2012. This year, there were 18,900 employed people in the territory in March.
Canada’s seasonally adjusted employment rate climbed by 1.1 per cent from March 2011 to March 2012. The Yukon’s decreased by 5.3 per cent.
Overall, the Yukon’s seasonally adjusted labour force was 20,500 as of March 2012, an increase of 600 from March 2011 and a drop of 200 since February 2012.