WATCH: If you want a job in Greater Victoria, there is likely one waiting for you. The unemployment rate in Victoria is the fourth lowest in Canada, and the lowest in B.C. But as Mary Griffin reports, businesses are struggling to find workers.
On a sunny afternoon, a note on the coffee shop door at Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf goes unnoticed by most going inside.
But they are outside soon when they find out the shop is closed.
The cafe at Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf is experiencing a shortage of workers. So it now closes hours earlier than usual.
Tourist Glen Rabuka was sitting outside Friday, sharing a coffee because he didn’t know the shop was closing early.
The coffee is good, and there is no one to serve it, I guess. And that is so unfortunate,” Rabuka said.
The economy in Greater Victoria is booming and that contributes to a worker shortage, according to Frank Bourree, principal of Chemistry Consulting of Victoria, a business and human resource consulting firm.
“We’ve been involved in employment business for about 25 years, here, and we’ve never seen it this severe in terms of shortages,” Bourree said.
He believes that the region is facing an employment crisis.
“It’s pretty much across all sectors. We’re seeing a lot of competition now between sectors for higher, and higher wages. So, people are leaving the tourism industry, and going to high-tech, or construction for higher wages often,” Bourree said.
Victoria’s unemployment rate of 4.2 percent, lower than Vancouver’s, and significantly lower than the national unemployment rate of six percent is the lowest in the province.
That translates into difficulties for employers.
“This is a structural problem. We’ve got a demographic challenge. We don’t have enough kids coming into the system. We’re not getting the migration, as I said, for a number of reasons. And we’re not getting enough immigration to this region. And that’s really the only solution to our labour shortage problem,” Bourree said.
According to Statistics Canada, the construction industry created 5,900 jobs from January 2017 to January 2018.
Another 2,900 in retail, and wholesale jobs. 2,400 jobs in finance-related positions, and 2,700 more jobs in education.
But the high cost of housing, transportation and childcare are challenges for workers and the companies that are cutting hours due to a lack of employees.
Outside the coffee shop, tourist George Sears says something is wrong when a business has to close in the middle of the day to deal with a staffing shortage.
“It’s a real twist, isn’t it? People want to be here. Visit here. And so, to not have a facility open after three p.m., or it’s two o’clock, isn’t it? It’s hard on the business,” Sears said.
Del Staveley is a tourist who intended on enjoying an afternoon coffee but was turned away.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the cost of living, the cost of getting a place to live is preventing people from getting jobs. Which is what it is,” Staveley said.