Alberta's employment outlook bleak says; government assesses Temporary Foreign Worker Program

As Alberta's official unemployment rate edges up to 6.5%, the Alberta Federation of Labour released figures showing Alberta's "real" unemployment rate – including discouraged workers and involuntary part-timers – is much higher at 9.2%. This rate has grown substantially from just two months ago. In June, the real unemployment rate was 8.6%.

The AFL notes that Canada's "official" unemployment rate is based on a much narrower calculation of people receiving Employment Insurance benefits and those engaged in any sort of job search. What economists often refer to as the "real" unemployment rate captures those who have dropped out of the labour force entirely, those who are working part-time due to unavailability of hours or full-time options, and those waiting to go back to a job after a lay-off.

The "real" unemployment rate is Statistics Canada's so-called R8 unemployment rate – available from Statistics Canada only for a fee.

"Alberta's economy is nowhere near as robust as the rest of the western provinces," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "It is clear the government's hands-off approach is not working," continues McGowan, noting government has laid off at least 300 public employees and frozen hiring. At the same time, Alberta's private sector has failed to create full-time jobs, resulting in the slowest job growth in Canada, highest commercial bankruptcies, and the highest social assistance caseloads since 1997.

The Alberta Federation of Labour represents over 140,000 workers across the province.

Program helps temporary foreign workers while they work in Alberta
Meanwhile, Alberta is extending funding of $850,000 to immigrant-serving agencies to provide services to temporary foreign workers as they adjust to life and work in Alberta. At the same time, the province will look at the impact of the arrival of thousands of temporary foreign workers on Alberta’s workforce, its communities, and its people to identify future programming options.

“Most temporary foreign workers need help as they adjust to life in a new country, a new job and with finding housing, health or legal services,” says Thomas Lukaszuk, Minister of Employment and Immigration.

“While our focus will always be jobs for Albertans and Canadians first, it is important that we recognize the contributions of temporary foreign workers to our province – making them feel welcome and included in our communities is simply the right thing to do.”

Funding has been provided to immigrant-serving agencies in Fort McMurray, Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary, Banff, Brooks and Lethbridge.

Lukaszuk has asked his parliamentary assistant, Teresa Woo-Paw, to lead a review of the impact of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program on Alberta and bring forward her findings and recommendations by spring 2011.

“The Temporary Foreign Worker Program helped to quickly fill temporary jobs during Alberta’s boom, it is a program that Alberta values and will always welcome,” Woo-Paw says. “Now that we have some space to breathe, let’s make sure we plan and have the right services in place for the future.”

More than 60,000 temporary foreign workers live and work in Alberta. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is a federal program designed to help employers fill temporary jobs. The entry and exit of temporary foreign workers to and from Alberta also falls under federal responsibility.

Provincial legislation governs the working conditions and health and safety requirements for temporary and permanent Alberta workers alike.

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