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Calgary battles unique employment situation as national job numbers stall

Calgary battles unique employment situation as national job numbers stall
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Calgary continued to buck the trend as job numbers across the country stalled at the end of 2023.


Statistics Canada released its December 2023 Labour Force Survey on Friday, which showed Canada’s jobless rate held steady at 5.8 per cent. Alberta, meanwhile, saw its jobless rate rise to 6.3 per cent, up from 5.9 per cent the month before. Calgary’s numbers actually fell to 5.9 per cent.

But that doesn’t mean the city is free and clear of job issues. Many people continue to look for jobs to no avail, while employers continue to scramble to look for workers with the same result.


Wyatt Gunderson has been looking for work for close to a year. The 61-year-old worked in retail for nearly four decades, the latter part of his career in managerial positions. But he said despite working hard and getting great reviews, he was still let go almost a year ago.

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“Shock,” he said. “It hurt. I give my all to my job.”

Click to play video: 'Cautious optimism in latest City of Calgary jobs report'

Cautious optimism in latest City of Calgary jobs report

Gunderson has also given “his all” to looking for a new job. Unfortunately, he said he hasn’t had any luck despite scouring the want ads.

“I am almost on (job websites) daily,” he added. “Checking and applying for different positions. I’ve had maybe three calls back.”

“It’s not the financial side, it’s the personal side that hurts. It’s the, ‘I’ve worked all my life.’ I’ve never been out of a job for any period of time.”

Gunderson pointed out many jobs also offer a lower salary, and longer hours than he is willing to accept. But most of all, he said he’s been told his skills just don’t match what they’re looking for.

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“I hear about all these places that are looking for people to work but the funny thing about that is your qualifications have to be up there to get those jobs,” he pointed out. “I don’t have that.”

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“I have the experience. I’ve worked hard. I know how to work. and I’m still willing to do that. ”

Wyatt Gunderson said he’s been looking for a job on a daily basis for weeks, without any offers.

Global News

The lack of special and specific skills has been an issue in Calgary for years.

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The Calgary Chamber of Commerce told Global News it continues to be one of the main issues facing the city’s ability to grow economically.

“The skills gap continues to be a major issue for Calgary businesses,” the chamber’s director of public affairs Ruhee Ismail-Teja said. “About half of them feel that their workforce has the skills and is fully equipped to do the tasks required.

“We do see that there is a need for upskilling.”

Hussein Bawa standing in front of his business.

Tomasia DaSilva

Long running Canadian business Lemmer agreed. The manufacturer and distributor of paint spray equipment and rust proofing spray equipment has been in business since 1965 and was bought by a Calgary entrepreneur in 2019.

Owner Hussein Bawa has been trying to expand Lemmer, the main brand and an offshoot called Sprayer Hub. But he’s hit a number of hurdles.

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“The hardest challenge right now is finding the right staff right now to support our growth,” Bawa told Global News.

“We’ve been putting job ads on Facebook, Indeed and the type of candidates that are applying don’t have the necessary skill sets that we’re looking for.”

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Bawa said, for example, the company needs mechanics or at least those who are mechanically inclined, but those haven’t been easy to find. He said it has also been a challenge to get people “back in the office” following COVID-19. Then there is the issue of what “younger” workers are looking for.

“Generally, a lot of the younger individuals, they’re more interested in a lot of the more sexy industries, like cryptocurrency and TikTok,” he said. “Selling spray systems may not be what they want.”

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Bawa suggested more “skills focused” training programs in post-secondary institutions.

Gunderson agreed he doesn’t have the skill set for many technical jobs, but added he certainly does for retail.

He’s not ready to retire and told Global News if he doesn’t find a job soon, he’ll make one.

“If I have to make my own job, I’ll make my own job,” he said. “It doesn’t appear people are clamoring to hire 61-year-old guys.”

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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