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P.E.I. unemployment rate shrinks to 11.7 per cent amid opening of travel bubble

Jim Sentance is an economist at the University of Prince Edward Island.
Jim Sentance is an economist at the University of Prince Edward Island. - Contributed

Prince Edward Island saw its unemployment rate shrink 3.5 percentage points from a June high of 15.2 per cent to 11.7 per cent in July, marking the first time since the onset of the pandemic that the province has seen a steady drop in its unemployment rate.

The July Labour Force Survey, conducted by Statistics Canada between July 12 and 18, captured a snapshot of the province’s labour market more than a week after the beginning of the Atlantic travel bubble. The overall pace of the reopening of P.E.I.’s economy, perhaps buoyed by the travel bubble, appears to have produced significant job gains in P.E.I., particularly for women, who have taken the brunt of COVID-19-related job losses. Total employment grew by 1,100 to 74,700, up from 73,600 in June.

The total number of Islanders without employment dropped by 3,300 to 9,900 from a high of 13,200 in June.

For women over 25, the unemployment rate dropped 4.3 percentage points, from 15.5 per cent to 11.2 per cent. For men in the same age category, the unemployment rate stayed relatively constant, dropping slightly from 9.5 per cent to 9.2 per cent.

When comparing the absolute number of women over the age of 25 who were unemployed in July 2019 with July 2020, P.E.I. women saw a jump of 1,700 in the ranks of the unemployed, a rise of 77.3 per cent. For men over 25, the absolute number of unemployed shrank by 400 from July of 2019, a drop of 10.5 per cent.

Young Islanders aged 15-24, who have also borne the brunt of unemployment, saw the number of unemployed drop by 1,400, from 4,000 to 2,600 between June and July. The unemployment rate for this age group is still high, standing at over 20 per cent.

P.E.I. job gains appear to be driven by a growth in part-time employment. There were 1,300 fewer full-time jobs in P.E.I. between June and July, a drop of 2.1 per cent. By contrast, there were 2,400 more part-time jobs in P.E.I. in July, compared to June.

This trend appears to mirror national trends, which show an increase in involuntary part-time workers.

UPEI economist Jim Sentance said the job growth numbers in P.E.I. could mask a drop in labour force participation rates, which shrank by two percentage points compared to July of last year.

This means that P.E.I. may be seeing a significant growth in “discouraged workers,” who have stopped looking for work.

"The number of people participating in the labour force is down significantly from what it was last year at this time," Sentence said in an interview.

"Virtually all of that loss of participation was from women and youth. It didn't hit men at all, basically. The men are just chugging along."

The national unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from 12.3 per cent in June.

Nationally, the survey also recorded rates of unemployment for South Asian, Arab and Black Canadians that were significantly higher than the national average.

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