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St. Albert job market expected to see seasonal boost

City could be seeing an increase in hiring soon, says Chamber of Commerce president

Alberta’s job market didn’t budge much from April to May, a trend shared by St. Albert, but that could change thanks to new provincial labour laws.

That’s according to St. Albert Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Jennifer McCurdy, who told the Gazette on Tuesday in an email the city could be seeing an increase in hiring soon thanks to seasonal opportunities and the proposed changes to the labour law.

“We have had some new retail stores open up recently, which contributes greatly as they usually like to hire locally,” she said. “With the pending changes to the labour standards and minimum wage, we anticipate seeing an increase in hiring in entry-level positions.”

The changes being proposed by the UCP-led government include rollbacks to banked overtime, holiday pay and union certification votes as well as a new $13-an-hour minimum wage for youth, which comes into effect June 26. The proposed changes prompted the NDP to stage an all-night filibuster last week, which ultimately didn't prevent the majority government from moving forward.

“Our government ran on a promise to get Albertans, especially young people, back to work," Premier Jason Kenney said in a news release last month.

"The previous government’s changes to employment rules went too far, too fast. With Bill 2 and the youth minimum wage, we are restoring fairness and balance to the workplace and getting ‘Help Wanted’ signs back in the windows of Alberta businesses.”

Meanwhile, the latest labour force survey released by Statistics Canada last week showed Alberta’s employment numbers barely budging from April to May, although the country as a whole had one of the lowest recorded unemployment rates at 5.4 per cent. Alberta’s unemployment rate was at 6.7 per cent, a 0.1-per-cent drop from April. On a year-over-year basis, employment in the province rose by about 20,000 or 0.9 per cent.

Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick all had increased employment numbers, while Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island saw a drop.

Statistics Canada also found self-employment in Canada as a whole was on the rise in May. The report shows a 3.3-per-cent increase when compared to this time last year or roughly 93,000. In comparison, private sector employees rose 2.8 per cent over the same time period or 335,000 while the public sector barely changed.

McCurdy said there were a number of job losses during Alberta’s economic downturn over the past few years and many saw self-employment as another option to pursue.

“People are realizing that these jobs, as they were, are not necessarily going to come back,” she said. “This has given some the opportunity to step out and try something new. For some, it could be pursuing a path that they have always thought of doing but haven’t had the time or wanted to take the risk until now.”

Mayor Cathy Heron explained the city fared well during the economic downturn but felt growth suffered a bit. She said St. Albert’s economy might not have been doing as well assome municipalities but she believes there are some positives.

Heron said she would like to see the city’s business sector grow more but understood many municipalities in Alberta were seeing little change month to month. Earlier this month, the province announced a new tool for municipalities to attract businesses in the form of a multi-year tax incentive program.

Bill 7, if passed, could allow municipalities to provide longer-term tax incentives to companies as a way to both keep and attract businesses.

Heron said in the past, St. Albert hasn’t had to use incentives to attract businesses because of the city’s low business tax rate.

“We work really closely with the Chamber of Commerce, and this term especially, St. Albert (chief administrative officer) Kevin Scoble meets with their governance and accountability committee almost monthly,” she said. “I think that relationship has been a good back-and-forth with how we’re helping the business community.”

Heron added council’s focus has been to bring more lands and services online so businesses can either expand or new ones can move in.

Jeff Labine

About the Author: Jeff Labine

Jeff Labine joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2018. He writes about city hall and municipal issues. Follow him on Twitter @jefflabine.
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