Workers in short supply at some northwestern Ontario businesses

THUNDER BAY — It appears that few people are applying for jobs as Ontario advances into phase two of reopening, nor are many of them returning to work.

Sharon Kovacic, the marketing community outreach co-ordinator with Yes Employment Services, is monitoring the situation.

“We are definitely seeing a lot of job postings and we are receiving lot of employer calls. We are looking at diverse jobs that are coming in from all sectors,” she said.

“On the other side, we are not seeing as many people coming in as we would have thought and we have no idea why that is.”

Charla Robinson, president of the Thunder Bay Camber of Commerce, is also aware of the situation and says many employees who have stopped working because businesses had to close for so long, moved on to other things.

“There are challenges of child care issues, or other issues for people that just make them unable to come back to work,” says Robinson. “Messaging from the government to stay home has added to it and some folks just don’t feel that they are ready to go back to work. Hopefully the announcement of step two and our (increasing) vaccination rates might make people feel more comfortable to start looking for work and get them back into the workforce.”

The Canada Recovery Benefit program (CRB) will be winding down in the coming weeks and people will be reaching the end of their eligibility.

“There’s limited number of weeks and that will be incentive for people to start looking for work,” she said.

Robinson also says there hasn’t been an influx of international students because the borders have been closed and classrooms have been online. Retail, restaurant and service industry jobs are typically held by international students.

“They are not coming in the same numbers as they have a year and a half ago and that is also adding to the challenge,” she said.

The government has been providing rehiring incentives to employers and funding for training programs.

At the Yes Employment Centre, Kovacic says they weren’t sure what was going to come first — people coming in to look for jobs that aren’t there or the other way around, employers having the jobs ready and the people aren’t there — “and we are seeing the latter.”

“We have been marketing to people to ‘let’s get going,’” said Kovacic. “If you want to be trained in a new field, if you want to get your resume revamped, we have been kind of reaching out . . . but we haven’t seen a huge response. We are seeing a lag.”

She noted a lot of people have been looking for jobs all the way through the pandemic.

“Our (employer) clients were so amazed at them. They are so resilient and they are so persistent,” said Kovacic. “ I’m sure we will see that again . . . but we haven’t seen that pickup yet. We are expecting it, we’re just not seeing it.”

Currently the unemployment rate in Thunder Bay is 7.7 per cent as of the end of May, down from eight per cent in April and 8.4 per cent in January, reflecting a downward trend in unemployment. The Ontario unemployment rate is 8.6 per cent at the end of May. New figures will be out at the end of the month for June.