Earlier this year, Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate fell to 3.4 per cent – the lowest rate of unemployment on the province’s books since Statistics Canada began collecting labour market data in 1976. Although unemployment increased slightly in May to 3.7 per cent, in the past 17 months Saskatchewan’s rate has remained the lowest in Canada, never reaching higher than 4.5 per cent. Workopolis took a look at the three main reasons why this happened, when it did, and what this means.

    1. The employment formula

    There were 3,000 more people employed in April than in March, and at the same time there were fewer people looking for work. “So when you do the math, it knocked it down 1.1 per cent to 3.4,” explains Jim George, acting president and CEO of Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA). The combination of not as many people looking for work in April and an increase of jobs from March helped to create the low unemployment rate.

    2. A diverse economy

    “That’s one of the cool things about Saskatchewan – we have quite a diverse economy,” George says. When one sector is down, another is moving along well, and the province is not dependent on any one sector. George mentions that when the potash and uranium sectors soften, agriculture and oil are strong. Alastair MacFadden, Assistant Deputy Minister of Labour Market Development with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of the Economy says another positive sign in April was a 7.5 per cent growth rate in the private sector employment. “This is particularly important because private sector investment is the main driver of continued economic expansion and employment growth in the province,” he says.

    3. Employment growth in the goods-producing sector

    “In April, we had strong employment growth in our goods-producing sector with a 12.7 per cent growth rate compared to a year ago,” MacFadden says. He says all major industries within this sector saw employment gains, including utilities (up nearly 40 per cent), manufacturing (14.2 per cent) and construction (12.6 per cent). Over 10,000 jobs were added to the Saskatchewan economy between those three sectors.
    The low unemployment rate is a testament to Saskatchewan’s continued growth and strong economy, but both MacFadden and George warn that a too-low unemployment rate can cause challenges. George says an ideal rate is between 3.5 and 4.5 per cent, and if it is too low, this means there are not enough people in the workforce. MacFadden adds that employers may be challenged to find workers with the required skills. “This is why it is so important to engage everyone who wants to participate in the economy. Smart employers are welcoming diversity, improving workplace safety and actively participating in our training system so that everyone who can work is working,” MacFadden says.

With record-low unemployment and a strong economy, Saskatchewan is poised to become the destination of choice for Canadians looking for opportunity.

Angelina Irinici is an award-winning journalist from Saskatoon, Sask. She recently moved back to her home city and is working as a television reporter. She is a graduate of Ryerson University’s journalism school. You can find her on Twitter at @angelinairinici.