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P.E.I. unemployment rate drops to 10.7 per cent

Jim Sentance
Jim Sentance - Contributed



P.E.I.’s labour market showed more signs of improvement in August, with the unemployment rate dropping from 11.7 per cent in July to 10.7 per cent in August.

The latest labour force survey from Statistics Canada found that 9,100 Islanders were unemployed as of August, down from 9,700 in July. Compared with August 2019, this represents an almost 20 per cent increase in the number of unemployed in P.E.I.

In recent months, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of many businesses and shut down services such as schools and daycare facilities, the burden of unemployment has disproportionately hit women over the age of 25. But the summer months also saw a spike in unemployment amongst youth of both genders aged 15 to 24.


Unemployment burden from COVID-19 still falling on youth, women

As of August 2020, the number of unemployment amongst women over the age of 25 was 20 per cent higher than in August 2019 while the number of unemployed amongst men was 10 per cent lower than last August.

“The men are almost back to normal, more the normal range,” said UPEI economist Jim Sentance

“But the women are behind a bit. I think a lot of that probably reflects the areas where the shut down is still affecting things."

For youth aged 15 to 24, the number of unemployed rose by 127 per cent in August 2020, compared to August 2019. Conversely, among P.E.I.’s youngest workers, the gender disparity appears to be the reversed.

"It seems to be significantly worse for the young men then for the young women," Sentance said.

Sentance said young men have an unemployment rate over 20 per cent in P.E.I.

Overall, the accommodation and food service sector in P.E.I. shed 2,200 jobs compared to August of 2019, according to provincial government statistics. 



P.E.I.’s unemployment rate hit a peak of 15.2 per cent in June. Prior to the start of the pandemic, P.E.I.’s unemployment rate stood at eight per cent. 

The August survey was conducted during the week of Aug. 9 and 15. 

In terms of a fall outlook, a new survey released Tuesday by the ManpowerGroup, found that nine per cent of Charlottetown area employers plan to hire during the fourth quarter of 2020, while 12 per cent anticipate cutbacks. Seventy-three per cent of employers plan to maintain their current staffing levels and six per cent are unsure of their hiring plans.

The survey concluded that seven per cent more Charlottetown employers expect to see an increase in hiring compared to those that expect to see a decrease in employment during the last three months of 2020. Charlottetown and the Cape Breton area had the strongest employment outlook observed by the ManPowerGroup.

Last spring, some employers in P.E.I., including several within the tourism and accommodation sector, had suggested the introduction of the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) would discourage recipients from returning to work.

In a media interview in early May, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said he feared the CERB would provide a disincentive for individuals to work. He said he had asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to tailor emergency support programs to incentivize workers to return to the labour force.

Sentance said he has seen little evidence so far that the CERB program discouraged workers from returning to work. 

"The certainty of a long-term job, even if it pays a little bit less - virtually anybody is going to take that rather than a short-term flyer on CERB, where they don't have to work for it,” Sentance said.

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