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Saskatchewan records lowest unemployment rate in Canada despite COVID-19 pressure

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan records lowest unemployment rate in Canada despite COVID-19 pressure' Saskatchewan records lowest unemployment rate in Canada despite COVID-19 pressure
WATCH: The unemployment rate in Saskatchewan dropped to 7.2 per cent in Janaury, well below the national rate of 9.4 per cent – Feb 5, 2021

Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate for January was the lowest in Canada, but the effects of the COVID-19 have far from subsided.

The unemployment rate in Saskatchewan improved from 8 per cent in December to 7.2 per cent in January according to data released Friday by Statistics Canada. Meanwhile, the national rate rose to 9.4 per cent in January.

Read more: Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate jumps in December

William Favel is one of Saskatchewan’s job seekers.

The single father has nine years of underground mining experience, and hopes to get back into a mine to support his two sons. One is a 17-year-old high school student, while the other is 22 and has stage 5 Down syndrome.

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Favel’s job hunt has been a challenge, in part, because so much of the hiring process has shifted online.

“I am applying at pretty much every mine across Canada and I’m just waiting for that one call,” Favel said.

William Favel with his sons Trent (left) and Darius (right). William Favel / Supplied

He turned to Quint Development Corporation to help him update his safety tickets. The organization assists job seekers with everything from computer access to wraparound services required to help people overcome barriers to stay employed.

In a typical year, Quint would hold its job fair in early February. Now, they’re considering options to move it online, but nothing beats the in-person experience.

“The best way to sell yourself to a hiring manager is to put yourself directly in front of them because you can speak to your skills in a way your resume can’t,” said Kayla Brien, who handles employer relations for Quint.

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Read more: With birth alerts done, affordable housing should be step 1: Saskatoon organizations

Brien added that jobs in some of the hardest-hit sectors are seeing increased competition, meaning previously entry-level jobs now require applicants with more experience.

Unemployment declined across the Prairie provinces in January, but public health measures in Quebec and Ontario drove the national rate up. Across Canada, the number of job-seekers who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more remained at 512,000 — a record high.

Saskatchewan’s pandemic peak for unemployment came in May 2020, when the figure ballooned to 12.4 per cent. Outside of the pandemic, the last time unemployment was this high was in March 1996 at 7.4 per cent.

Pandemic or not, the unemployment rate is too high, according to Lori Johb, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.

Read more: Canadian economy sheds 213K jobs in January as lockdowns hit part-time workers

“I think the number is a little deceiving,” Johb said.

“I think that if we dig a little deeper, we’ll see that we haven’t recovered many of the jobs we’ve lost since the start of the pandemic.”

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In a tweet Friday morning, Premier Scott Moe described Saskatchewan’s current employment numbers as “strong.”

Compared to other jurisdictions, Saskatchewan’s economic performance has been “remarkable,” according to a news release quote attributed to Immigration and Career Training Minister Jeremy Harrison.

While Saskatchewan has not been immune to the global impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, our province has demonstrated incredible resiliency as we lead Canada’s economic recovery.”

Saskatchewan added 2,200 jobs in January, according to Statistics Canada.

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