Workers in Canada’s oil-rich Northwest Territories are struggling to stay afloat amid a sharp fall in the price of oil and a looming labour shortage.
The local economy has been suffering from a shortage of skilled workers as a result of the steep drop in oil prices, said Jim Schmock, a former federal cabinet minister who has spent the past year studying the region’s labour market.
In the Northwest Territories, unemployment is currently at a five-year low of 4.6 per cent, according to the Canadian Labour Congress.
And the jobless rate in Nunavut is still below 4 per cent.
In May, Canadian employers announced they would be laying off 5,500 jobs in an effort to balance the budget and keep the economy humming.
In a statement, a Canadian Chamber of Commerce spokesman said, “Our job market is in the best position to absorb the anticipated drop in crude oil prices.
And we are pleased to see that our Canadian workers are continuing to make significant gains.
But with oil prices now so low, there is no reason for Canadian employers to stop hiring.”
Schmock said he hopes the Canadian government will offer more support for the workers.
“The Canadian government has a very important role to play,” he said.
“This is an economic recovery and if you want to create jobs in Canada, you need to create more jobs.
The more jobs we can create, the more jobs Canadians will be able to earn and the more Canadians will have to spend.”
Schlumpf, who has studied the region for more than a decade, said he expects the region to face even more challenges.
The federal government is currently spending $40 billion to build the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia, and Schmow said he is concerned that the federal government will not extend its support to the region.
“The Canadian federal government seems to be doing everything in its power to ensure the oil-dependent provinces don’t get the financial assistance they need to meet their economic challenges,” he added.
Schmow added that he expects unemployment will rise because of the low oil price, which has caused some people to drop out of the workforce.
“People who are in the oil and gas industry are having trouble finding work,” he told The Globe and Mail.
“In fact, the oil industry is now experiencing an increase in the number of layoffs as well.”
According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate in the United States has fallen from 12.7 per cent in May of 2014 to 6.4 per cent today.
But the Canadian unemployment rate is still at a two-year high of 5.6 percent.
Schlumpsh said the federal Liberal government has been doing everything possible to try to address the labour shortages, including providing more support to oil and energy workers.
“They have made a lot of efforts to make sure there are jobs, and they have been trying to do it for the oil workers and the other workers who are not getting the jobs,” he noted.
“And that is one of the things I’m really disappointed about.
The other thing is that these are people who are working in the fields.
They have to put their bodies on the line to get a job.”