The labour market appears to be healthy in Nanaimo, according to the leading man at the region’s chamber of commerce.
Kim Smythe, chief executive officer with the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce, said the unemployment rate in Nanaimo is just under six per cent and general employment is quite full, particularly in the retail and food service industries.”I haven’t heard anybody struggling because they can’t get the talent that they need or the man- or woman-power that they need,” he said. Smythe’s comments come as some regions across the province are struggling to find workers in the retail and food service sectors.Mark von Schellwitz, Western Canada regional vice-president of Restaurants Canada operations, said that British Columbia leads the country in food service sales growth, which has resulted in a greater demand for workers.He said there is “no question” that restaurants and fast-food retailers alike are experiencing a labour shortage across the province and around Vancouver Island, but noted that he’s yet to hear from anyone in Nanaimo about staffing issues.
“I have heard from some people on Vancouver Island, but not Nanaimo specifically. However, what I understand is that its an issue … in communities throughout Vancouver Island, north of Victoria,” he said.
Von Schellwitz explained that one of the labour shortage issues revolves around staffing hours. He points out that its more difficult for retailers to hire people for graveyard shifts.
“When you’re talking about part-time workers there are only certain shifts that they are available and those shifts that they are not available are difficult to fill,” he said.
Julia Dow, general manager at Woodgrove Shopping Centre, said none of her retailers have informed her of any kind of difficulty finding retail or food service workers.She said she’s experienced staff shortages during the holiday season when she was working in Edmonton. Dow said it’s usually evident when there is real shortage of retail and food service workers.
“You see huge signage everywhere,” she said. “It’s not just retail and it usually starts with quick service restaurants and what you’ll see is QSR’s like Tim Hortons or Wendy’s with huge signs saying ‘now hiring’ and they’ll have nice signing bonuses.”
Smythe said there was a general labour shortage, though mostly related to trades, in Nanaimo prior to the collapse of oil prices, but things have improved since some workers from Alberta have returned to the area.
“Before the oil patch went quiet there was a labour shortage in trades people here in town,” he said. “A lot of the builders and developers were concerned that they couldn’t proceed with their projects. But that has since corrected itself.”Although the labour market is strong right now, Smythe said that he has received calls from businesses looking to fill higher-skilled positions in industries such as marketing.”I’ve had two or three calls like that this fall, which is a little bit unusual. It is a high number,” he said. “That may indicate that there is a bit of a challenge out there in finding some skilled labour.”