Downtown Fernie

Unemployment hits 12-month low

New data from BC Stats shows the Kootenays no longer has the highest unemployment in the province.

Fernie businesses are struggling to fill summer positions as the ski season draws to a close and unemployment reaches a 12-month low.

New data from BC Stats shows the Kootenays no longer has the highest unemployment in the province, with the jobless rate dropping from 7.5 per cent in December to 6.3 per cent in March.

The number of people looking for work is similar to March last year (6.4 per cent), however, unemployment remains above the B.C. average of five per cent.

EK Employment Client Services Leader Lauren Miholic attributed the decrease to the seasonal nature of employment in the area.

“Around November, summer employment comes to an end and job seekers begin looking for winter work,” she said.

“Come February, most job seekers have found employment that will likely last until spring. Seasonal jobs are more prevalent than year-round in our area.”

While unemployment has improved, the Kootenay region’s overall labour force shrunk from 70,100 people to 63,700 people.

Miholic explained how this was possible.

“Typically we see the population of the Elk Valley significantly increase in the winter months,” she said.

“Around February, some of the folks that are here for ski season begin to leave, which could attribute in a small part to the decrease in the Kootenays.”

This is proving a problem for employers, who are struggling to find staff for summer.

In the Elk Valley, there is currently strong demand for carpenters and other trades, as well as tourism and hospitality workers.

“Right now, we have a very high number of jobs on our job board and not enough job seekers to fill them,” said Miholic.

“During the summer months, we notice that our office becomes more quiet until the season changes again back to winter when we get an influx of job seekers coming through the doors and job postings on our board.”

EK Employment is one of four WorkBC Employment Services Centres in the Kootenays and will host a job fair at the Fernie Family Centre on May 3 from 2-5pm.

Miholic shared her advice for jobseekers.

“Think about your strengths and communicate to your ideal employer what you have to offer them,” she said.

“The right job should be a good fit from your point of view as well as the employer’s.”

Jobseekers are encouraged to visit the WorkBC office in Fernie for guidance or support, including help with resume and cover letter writing, wage subsidies, and clothing.

“We also partner with some other great organizations in the community, such as the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, where you can get your computer skills up to speed, among many other things,” said Miholic.

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