When Alberta declared a pandemic just over a year ago, the province’s labour market suffered tremendously. Fast forward 13 months later and Alberta’s unemployment rate sits at 10.7 per cent, the second-highest in the country behind Newfoundland and Labrador at 12.8 per cent, according Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey released Feb. 5, 2021.
The survey revealed that in January 2021, part-time jobs increased by 21,100, a big shift from December when thousands of jobs were lost. This was the first employment rate increase since October of last year. However, this increase was somewhat offset by a decrease of 300 full-time jobs.
Alberta’s hospitality and food service industries took the largest hit at the beginning of 2021 with 17,900 jobs lost. The biggest gains were seen in the construction industry, which added 15,300 jobs. Human resources experts say that trades and sales positions, while not recession-proof, tend to be the first place that the market sees growth.
The reality is that the pandemic has affected all industries and all Albertans. Calgary-based Real HR Founder and President Eleanor Culver says, “It’s not news that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the Calgary job market. Every single Calgarian has been personally affected, whether by job modifications or job loss. We do, however, see reason for hope.” According to Culver, rather than dwelling on the doom and gloom, we must recognize the benefits that COVID-19 has had on small businesses in Calgary. These include increased adaptability, reprioritization of goals and work tasks, embracement of technology, improved staff cohesiveness, personal growth and resilience.
Culver adds, “Businesses have pivoted to accommodate the pandemic situation. Think about the breweries who are now producing hand sanitizer, high-end restaurants expanding to take out, clothing manufacturers producing non-medical masks and millwork companies now creating custom acrylic panels. As well, individuals and businesses have had to revise their priorities to focus on what is most important—the people factor.”
She also points out that because businesses had to shift to remote work, employees quickly learned how to be more productive while working remotely and to be accountable for results, not effort. “Even after we get the all-clear to return en masse to offices, we believe that workplaces will retain a portion of their workforce in a remote capacity,” says Culver.
Krista Sloan associate partner at Klopp Richards and Associates agrees with Culver and is optimistic about the future. “We have noticed a steady increase in recruitment demands over the past six months and will likely see this continue. Due to the diversity of our client base, we are often able to present candidates with multiple opportunities. The legal, accounting and residential property management industries have been extremely active with newly created positions.” Sloan is optimistic about what the future holds for both job seekers and employers. “What excites me the most coming out of this pandemic is how employers and employees alike are embracing remote working environments.”
Who are companies hiring, if at all? Klopp Richards and Associates Managing Partner Dina Klopp explains that job seekers who are flexible and possess a positive mindset will fare better than those who are negative and unwilling to accommodate ever-changing work environments. “Skilled candidates who are flexible and have a great attitude are always in demand and this year has been no exception. Particularly in the legal, public accounting and tax, property management, and tech sectors. We are seeing competing offers and counter offers despite the higher than usual unemployment rate. We have also witnessed highly-skilled individuals successfully transition careers and sectors. These individuals have self-identified transferable skills and are willing to embrace change and are open to learning.”
Culver believes that finding a job in one’s particular industry is not impossible. “It may, however, require some creativity on the job seeker’s part. For example, it’s possible to create a full-time position by shopping their skills to several companies as opposed to just one. One organization may not need a full-time communications person, but several may need 10 to 15 hours per week.”
When it comes to looking for a job during a downturn, Culver says contrary to popular belief, job seekers have opportunities. “Businesses are trying their best remain open, this means that jobs in steady growth industries and re-opening jobs can be found. Companies, now more than ever, are taking the time to be cautious with their money and taking hiring decisions seriously. This is the opportunity to tune your resume to show off your best skills. That means, before firing off a resume, do some research on the target company and tailor your cover letter and resume to ensure you demonstrate how you can fit the corporate culture while delivering value.”
When it comes to teamwork, the power of cohesiveness and unity has never been stronger than in this last year. “We have seen an increase in adaptability, teamwork, accountability and unity in many of our clients’ workforces. Even after 12 months of COVID-19 restrictions, employees have a sense that we are in this together and appreciate the extra efforts their employers have expended to ensure they are safe at work,” says Culver.
With all that Albertans have gone through, what does a post-pandemic world look like on the job front? For many, COVID-19 has forced a slower pace of life – a time to pause and reflect and re-examine priorities. It has created the opportunity to focus on self-development as well as take inventory of what is important in life. This, says Culver, is called personal growth.
As more Albertans are vaccinated and public health restrictions are slowly lifted, more jobs will open up, putting people back to work. Many in the service sector opted to lay off employees versus terminate. This means that as businesses and restaurants begin to re-open, those who were laid off will be going back to work.
In just a few short months, Culver points out it will be patio season, which is thrilling for many Calgarians. She believes that the service industry will boom as people get excited to get out and hit the town again.
Looking at the bright side of things, Klopp explains that this is a good time and opportunity for companies that are looking to grow. “There are some very talented individuals out there who typically would not make a move, but are now open to exploring new roles, companies, industries and even locations. We feel this is an exciting time in Alberta as we continue to diversify, build and develop our talent pool. We definitely still have that entrepreneurial, ‘can do’ attitude that will see us through the rough patches and bring opportunity our way. I am personally excited to see how the next few years will unfold for all of us.”
Culver concurs and adds, “Both businesses and individuals have come to recognize that they are stronger, more adaptable and much more resilient than they assumed before they were faced with the challenges COVID-19 has brought.”