It’s not exactly what you would classify as bad news for the province.
In fact, the recent job numbers are actually alarmingly good — especially when you compare them with what’s been going on in the rest of country when it comes to job creation.
Elsewhere in Canada, March saw the loss of 54,500 full-time, private-sector jobs from February, as Canada’s unemployment rate rose to 7.2 per cent.
But here in Saskatchewan, the unemployment rate fell to 3.9 per cent, passing Alberta for the lowest rate in the country.
To understand the significance of this, one just has to recall our not-so-distance history.
Gone are the days when Saskatchewan kids — especially, rural Saskatchewan kids — would simply moved to Alberta to find work, resulting in an artificially low unemployment rate. Instead, Saskatchewan has become the place to come to find work, as the March job creation statistics clearly indicate.
Consider Saskatchewan’s most recent job numbers in the far-more-accurate context of year-over-year — a far better way to assess how well or poorly we are doing because it eliminates the issues of seasonal hiring.
There were 544,700 people working in Saskatchewan in March — 25,700, or 4.9-per cent, more than exactly a year ago.
What makes the March 2013 even more impressive is that they represented a record for month. Record job growth reflects record Saskatchewan population. And all this is happening when the rest of the country is sputtering.
Even a statistician like Doug Elliott of SaskTrends Monitor — who has seen employment go up and down in this province over the years — is starting to buy into the notion that something is very different in Saskatchewan.
“The longer this goes on, the more likely it is real and the less likely it is a statistical glitch,” Elliott said of Saskatchewan’s rather stunningly good March job numbers.
But while the overall job news for Saskatchewan is great, it isn’t exactly perfect — especially if you live in rural Saskatchewan.
Admittedly, it isn’t exactly time to push the panic button, but the numbers within the March job numbers also clearly indicate that rural Saskatchewan job growth is slowing.
The first number of concern is the 1,100 less jobs in our traditionally strong oil, gas, mining and forestry sectors. That we still saw increased employment when our bread-and-butter resource sector was laying off people is good news for the province as a whole. But for a large swath of rural communities now depending on oil drilling and potash mining to keep the local economy going, less work in the resource sector isn’t the best news.
Fortunately, 7,900 more construction jobs in Saskatchewan than a year ago made up the difference. But Elliott notes that most of these construction jobs are a result of labour-intensive home building. And most of these homes and jobs building them are clearly happening in the major cities.
We know this because that’s what the building permits tell us. And the March job statistics are telling us pretty much the same story. There were 7,100 more jobs (5.8 per cent, year-over-year) in Regina and 10,600 more jobs (7.2-per-cent more) in Saskatoon.
Admittedly, it wasn’t all bad news for the rural economy. There were 7,600 more agriculture jobs, year-over-year — a surprising increase, given than there was far less farming being done in the cold March of 2013 than in March 2012 when some farmers were already on the land.
But we need to cautious because we know the trend towards fewer farmers. It’s possible that what’s defined as an agriculture job might very well mean agricultural servicing jobs in the cities.
Yes, the overall job numbers are fantastic. But they are certainly better in the cities than in the county.
Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.