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Low jobless rate not good news for Sault Ste. Marie

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Statistics Canada recently published November's figures for unemployment rates across the country. Sault Ste. Marie's rate is well below the national and provincial rate.

But that isn't a good thing.

Silvia Alves, executive director for the Algoma Workforce Investment Corporation, said the figure is not something positive for the area.

“Although the unemployment rate is low that does mean the availability of workers is limited,” Alves said.

“So as unemployment rate is lower there (are fewer) people available and looking for work.”

The rates for Canada and Ontario are 5.1 per cent and 5.5 per cent respectively. Unemployment across northeastern Ontario is at 4.4 per cent and the rate for the Sault is just 4.1 per cent.

Experts say this is indicative of a worker’s market, where businesses have few options when filling positions.

The Sault's Downtown Association is in the market for at least one new staff member. Executive director Salvatore Marchese said they're getting half the number of applicants they have previously.

"In the past you would have a large amount of applications come in relatively quickly, this time of year having to feed through and wait a little longer for those applicants to come in,” Marchese said.

N1 Solutions is another local company looking for new employees. Communications manager Jessica Tett said they are getting enough interest, but there's a lack of skilled applicants.

“We are actively getting multiple different applicants for each different role, but the biggest challenge we have is getting qualified applicants,” Tett said.

“Sometimes people will just apply to the job without looking at what is required.”

Retail and health care are the sectors in highest need of staff. Alves said a number of agencies are working to find solutions, like bringing in immigrants with the right skills for employers.

And working to improve the skills of locals.

“Developing and retaining our underrepresented groups such as youth, people with disabilities and continuing to support our indigenous communities in workforce development,” she said.

Alves added that the Sault's aging population will only make the problem more evident, and the shortages need to be addressed before the issue is greater.

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