The Northwest Territories’ employment rate is at its lowest so far this century, the latest figures from the NWT Bureau of Statistics show.
Labour force figures for April, published late last week, are the first to capture in any detail the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the territory’s job market.
The bureau says roughly 300 jobs were lost in transportation and warehousing, 200 in utilities, 200 in the mining and resource sector, and 200 in educational services.
There were gains in other industries, meaning overall employment in the territory fell by 400 jobs. The resulting employment rate of 62.3 percent is the lowest recorded in decades.
Results are based on three-month moving averages, which means April’s job market data actually represents information from surveys conducted in February, March, and April – a technique used for relatively small sample sizes across Canada.
The NWT Bureau of Statistics puts the territory’s unemployment rate at nine percent, about the highest in four years.
“Last month’s unemployment rate could potentially be higher, except that it appears many people stopped looking for work,” the bureau stated. Six hundred people dropped out of the labour force entirely between March and April, meaning they weren’t actively trying to get a new job and so don’t technically count as unemployed.
The NWT’s employment rate remains higher than the national average of 56.6 percent, which itself has dropped almost five percentage points in the past two months.
Seven Canadian jurisdictions have unemployment rates above 10 percent, including Nunavut, which has Canada’s highest at 17.7 percent.
Why don’t the employment and unemployment rates add up to 100 percent?
They measure slightly different things.
The employment rate measures the percentage of people aged 15 or over with jobs out of the entire NWT population of the same age – regardless of whether those people are actually able to work and actively looking for work.
The unemployment rate only measures the percentage of people who don’t have jobs out of the labour force – the list of residents who can work and either have jobs or are trying to find one.
Even before the pandemic hit, employment in the NWT was relatively low compared to the past two decades.
Dips in the territory’s employment and unemployment rates are ordinarily seasonal. Generally, slightly more people in the NWT report finding jobs during the summer months.
The NWT gets its labour force data by through monthly surveys of around 400 people aged 15 and older.