Unemployment up in Nanaimo

It's hard to find a job in Nanaimo right now.

It’s hard to find a job in Nanaimo right now.

The city’s unemployment rate was 16 per cent in May, down from 16.3 per cent in April, but up from 9.1 per cent in May 2010, according to the latest Statistics Canada numbers.

The national agency also puts Nanaimo’s unemployment numbers at double the provincial rate – provincewide, the unemployment rate fell from 7.9 per cent in April to 7.6 per cent in May.

Steve Arnett, executive director of Nanaimo Youth Services Association, which assists youth aged 15-30 find employment, said youth are finding it particularly difficult to find work.

“There’s still significantly high unemployment for young folks,” he said.

In harder economic times, people eat out less and buy less, which means entry-level jobs in the retail and service industries – the types of jobs that youth often fill – tend to dry up, said Arnett.

More experienced, older workers looking for jobs than in the past or retired people who take on part-time jobs to supplement savings could also be contributing factors, he said.

Meanwhile, demand for the association’s employment training programs has grown quite a bit in the past two years.

The organization is running more Bladerunners programs than in the past and there’s a wait list to get in – at information sessions this year, Arnett counted three or four youths for every spot.

Jacki Maxwell, team leader and resource consultant with Supporting Employment Transitions, said she’s not sure why the unemployment rate for Nanaimo is so high compared with elsewhere, but what she does know is that it is tough out there.

“We see a lot more mature workers these days,” she said. “It’s been the same for a year and a half now where it’s been a tight job market. It isn’t like we’ve had a sudden surge of people.”

The organization posts an average of around 1,150 jobs each month, said Maxwell, but competition for these positions is stiff.

Ian Howat, who oversees the economic development department at the City of Nanaimo, said he was surprised at the jump over last year.

“From my interpretation, there was nothing that raised the alarm bells in regards to job losses or reduction in job creation,” he said. “You would think that there would be something really standing out.”

Perhaps there are more people entering the workforce than last year, said Howat.

For example, with the university on strike in April, more students may have decided to look for work or people who were not actively looking for work last year might have decided to look this year, he said.

Statistics Canada bases its unemployment rates on the Canadian Labour Force Survey, a sample survey that collects data from approximately 54,000 Canadian households each year. In May, 126 Nanaimo households were surveyed.