Skipping stones on the labour pool

Blake Doyle
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Much has been written about the changing labour market and the difficulty employers are having finding the right skills to run their business. From generational changes in work habits, to temporary foreign labour, these are dynamic times for business and workers.

On Prince Edward Island, it was projected that more people were exiting the workforce than entering it in 2012. The correct demographic prediction was that more of the workforce was eligible to retire than was going to be replaced.

However, there were unprecedented external forces affecting this prediction. One of the largest was the impact of the 2008 financial crisis and consequent erosion of stock market gains. This significantly impacted many people’s retirement plans.

There was also an increase in divorce rates that changed household earning and income dynamics, keeping people employed longer. Most positively, people are healthy and living longer; the average retirement age is 62, five years older than two decades ago.

These, among other factors, create a short-term bump in employable labour. But this is a blip and will work through the labour market in short order.

Richard Florida had an interesting article in the Atlantic this week, which considered the impact of Baby Boomers on the millennials entrance to the job market. Younger people are increasingly having difficulty securing meaningful work, they are well educated but the jobs they are qualified for are not opening up.

Millenials are people born between 1980 and 2000. In 1990, the U.S. experienced a peak in their birth rates, thus the 15 to 35-year-olds are a growing force trying to tap into the tight job market and generally securing low end, low pay positions they are overqualified for. (On P.E.I. our birth rates swelled in 1963, ‘71, ‘80, ‘85, and ‘90, consistent with most Western economies.)

How are demographics impacting the labour supply? According to Florida, the population above 55 has grown 20 per cent since 2007, as well there are five per cent more 22 to 34-year-olds available to work. Despite the growth in millennials their number employed has not changed as many continue their education waiting out a sluggish job market.

An interesting observation: millennials make up 32 per cent of computer and math workers, boomers 11 per cent. Yet computer and math jobs only grew two per cent for millennials while it grew for boomers 20 per cent between 2007-2013.

This is not an argument to pit generations against one another, but to point out changes and challenges in the labour market. Businesses need to be considerate of these shifts and need to consider succession strategies over the coming half decade. Policy makers need to understand where the untapped potential in the economy resides and build strategies to unlock these eager and capable resources.

Better analysis of trending needs to be developed so future workers can effectively plan their employment strategies. Millennials have a greater propensity to shift careers and are adaptive to changing labour conditions.

On P.E.I., in 2013 the trade sector grew 12.4 per cent, construction 12.0 per cent. Last year it could have been forecasted, based on building permits, that these sectors were heading for a correction in 2014.

Data is available, but not adequately harnessed. The coming decade will see substantial shifts in our workforce and both boomers and millenials are critical to smoothing this transition.

Blake Doyle is The Guardian's small business columnist. He can be reached at

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Florida, Atlantic U.S.

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Recent comments

  • Chester L
    June 21, 2014 - 16:56

    The View from Martinvale.......Chester L Blake Doyle makes some interesting and refreshing comments from research he has picked up and I wonder if our Innovation Dept on PEI is looking at some of these dynamics as well as why as was reported was this transitional Job Skills dropped that was a transitional arrangement to allow those on EI to flow into other jobs with proper Training........if this is so are we shooting ourselves in the foot by not supporting funding of folks trying to get better skills for better jobs.......any interest here or comment......its nice to see some intelligent discussion on our Employment issues as opposed to constant bashing and political yammering and yet we need sound programs and timely investigations and analysis of reports that due tell the real story and up to date as well.;)....thanks for this space to comment.;)