Figures from Statistics Canada show employment insurance beneficiaries in many provinces may indeed have to move if they want to find work.
When compared with the number of people on EI, the number of job vacancies in each region of Canada reveals significant gaps between available work and the number of workers who might take those jobs.
In Nova Scotia, 30,930 people were receiving regular employment insurance benefits in March, 2012, while on average there were less than 5,000 job vacancies in the province. Contrast that to Alberta, where there were on average more than 60,000 jobs available in the same month.
Even if every EI beneficiary in Nova Scotia moved to Alberta and took a job, there would still be more than 30,000 jobs available in the Western province. If those Nova Scotians choose to stay in their home province to find work, at least 26,000 of them would still be jobless.
Statistics Canada determines the number of job vacancies in Canada by asking businesses if they had any unfilled positions at the end of each month. Civil servants, military personnel, the self-employed and people working primarily in agriculture, fishing or religious organizations are not included, so the number of job vacancies is only rough estimate of available work.
Still, knowing about these large gaps -- a difference of about 33,000 more people on EI than available jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador, and approximately 30,000 more in New Brunswick -- could encourage people to look for work beyond their provincial borders.
If the federal government’s proposed changes to provide EI recipients with more information on available jobs in their area is expanded nationally, it might make people “realize that they have to move,” Arthur Sweetman, an economics professor at McMaster University said.
“At the end of the day the government can’t force people to move, but it can give people good information about what’s happening in other parts of the country.”
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley has stated the employment insurance reforms aim to connect unemployed workers with jobs in their area, and not necessarily encourage workers to move to areas with more opportunities – but the relatively few number of job vacancies in some areas show workers may simply have no choice.
The number of job vacancies in industries and regions in Canada is tracked by Statscan as a three-month average, the most recent data showing the average available jobs over January, February and March of this year. The number of employment insurance beneficiaries is measured on a monthly basis, and the most recent data released Thursday shows a favourable trend of overall decline in the number of people receiving employment insurance.
In April, the latest month for which employment insurance figures are available, there were fewer beneficiaries in nine provinces. Most notably, the number dropped by 7 per cent in Quebec and 6.7 per cent in Ontario and Alberta. But even with those declines, most provinces are still home to many more EI beneficiaries than vacant jobs.
In Ontario, comparable data from March shows 159,880 EI beneficiaries are competing with the other unemployed people in the province for 74,000 vacant jobs. In British Columbia, there are 32,000 more people on EI than jobs available.
Alberta and Saskatchewan are the only places where there are actually more job vacancies than people collecting EI, pointing to the need for training to address labour shortages in both provinces.
“There are different kinds of mismatches,” in those provinces, Mr. Sweetman said.
“People are in the wrong place, they have the wrong skills ... many of the people may be in Calgary and the jobs are in Fort McMurray.”