Sometimes the story behind the story is more interesting than the original tale itself. One example is summed up this way: the fastest growing segment of the provincial labor market is people over the age of 65.
Normally that would be a time for retirement and not working but it is the exact opposite in Saskatchewan. Part of that story may be found in a report issued by RBC Royal Bank a few days ago that asked: what will you do with an extra 2,000 hours a year?
That’s the amount of time usually devoted to working. And when a person retires, that time is now available for other activities. Retirement, says the bank report, is usually about finances – being able to make ends meet on savings and pensions and so on – but it’s also about finding things to do.
For many, it turns out finding some sort of employment is increasingly becoming an option, perhaps to supplement their income but most likely as a mechanism for dealing with the time they now have on their hands.
One of the sectors that has played a big role in Saskatchewan’s growth is construction.
Investment in new buildings followed capital inflows into major resource projects as service firms were attracted to the resource-industry expansion which, in turn, led to more people moving to the province and the expansion of things such as retail to accommodate the new arrivals.
So, tracking building permits is, essentially, something of a proxy for the overall state of the economy…it is expanding, contracting or flat? Further, it is something of a leading indicator. A permit issued today means construction work tomorrow.
The latest national figures we have on this are from December, showing Saskatchewan has returned to a familiar pattern with building permit values of roughly $150 million a month. We had a spike last October – likely because of a single major project – but the last six months have hovered in that $150 million range quite steadily with December just over $165 million.
Regina was a key contributor with permit values rising by more than 160 percent from November.
When the monthly labor market survey or employment report comes out, we look as much for trends as for actual numbers.
A case in point is the January report. It’s both up and down and, depending on who you listen to in terms of interpretation or reaction, they’re probably right. This is especially important in the run up to an election where both sides will be cherry picking the stats that best suit their story.
When compared to December, January’s numbers were lower. There were 1,600 fewer jobs.
But when compared to this time a year ago, they’re better – considerably better. There were about 6,500 more people with a job. But the labor pool grew by 16,000 in the same period. People were moving here for work so the unemployment rate rose because we while we had more people employed, even more were job hunting.
The point here is that the labor market is holding its own. It certainly has not collapsed which may be the most important signal of all.
Paul Martin You’ve heard him on the radio, seen him on TV and read him in newspapers and magazines. Paul is a popular keynote speaker on topics ranging from the economy to tapping community potential. His unique blend of communication and business knowledge has made him a highly sought-after consultant. As the Chair of Martin Charlton Communications, Paul is MCC’s ‘go to’ guy for all things business in Saskatchewan. He is the chair of four Saskatchewan branches of TEC (The Executive Committee) – a global organization dedicated to improving the performance and enhancing the lives of CEOs – which has over 50 CEOs and senior executives among its Saskatchewan members. The long and short: Paul knows the province’s corporate community and business economy like few others. He is a potent conduit for anyone looking to do business in Saskatchewan, Canada’s fastest growing economy. His strategic advice is unrivalled.