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If there’s a labour shortage, how come some people are still out of work?

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To read the headlines you’d think nearly every Canadian who wants a job would have one by now.

The country’s unemployment rate hit a 43-year low of 5.6 per cent in December, and in January the economy added 66,800 new jobs. That’s on top of the growth of 163,000 jobs netted over 2018, according to Statistics Canada data. 

Numbers like these paint a picture of a healthy job market where workers have plenty of choice. But as labour market experts explain, that doesn’t mean everyone who needs a job can find work that fits their skills, industry and location. 

Steven Tobin, executive director of the Labour Market Information Council in Ottawa, says the confusion stems from too much focus on national averages such as the overall unemployment rate or job growth.

Steven Tobin, executive director of the Labour Market Information Council, says economists tend to think too much about national averages when it comes to unemployment rates. Pockets within the labour market still have challenges finding work. (LMIC)

« Those are very good indicators, and they help us really articulate a temperature check on how things are going, » he says.

« The reality is that national figures do mask the differences in the labour market that are prevailing either by geography, obviously, in a large country, and also that there are pockets of workers where there may be differences. » For example, unemployment is higher among youth and older workers than it is overall, he says.

Even economists have failed in putting too much emphasis on net job numbers, losing sight of the fact that net figures entail some people gaining jobs and others losing them, says Tobin.

Here’s a look at why those numbers — and the headlines — might not reflect reality for all Canadians.

More skill shortage than labour shortage

There’s a lot of conversation about labour shortages, but in many cases what’s really at issue is high demand for workers with particular skills and expertise.

« Quite often we conflate a skill shortage with a labour shortage, » says Tobin. « They manifest themselves kind of in the same way, which is there’s a vacancy that goes unfilled. But they’re really quite different concepts.

« If you have a region which has high unemployment, you’re not likely to be experiencing a labour shortage. But if employers are having difficulty finding people, it’s not that people are not there, but that they’re missing the skill set. »

Workers including Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, the national union representing auto workers, gather in Windsor, Ont., on Jan. 11, protesting the planned Oshawa closure. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

For instance, strong demand for app developers or marketing managers does not help a line worker from the GM plant that’s set to close in Oshawa, Ont., nor does it help an out-of-work oil and gas industry veteran. 

Some provinces have fewer opportunities

« One of the main sources of a variation in the Canadian market right now is different strengths across regions, » says Brendon Bernard, economist at job platform Indeed Canada.

« In provinces like Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec — where labour shortages and hiring difficulties have picked up — we have seen nice progress in a couple of key dimensions of the labour market. » Measures such as the average length of time it takes a person to find work are improving at « a fairly decent pace, » he says.

But these job market conditions are not present everywhere.

« That’s really the case in the oil-rich provinces, where wage growth used to be the strongest and jobless spells used to be quite low. Those labour markets haven’t recovered since the downturn in oil prices a few years ago, » says Bernard. The prospects seen at the national level are not « really being felt in provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan. »

And not everyone can easily move to a province where the job market is better.

« Mid-career to older workers have established themselves in communities, invested in home ownership which either inhibits their ability to move, or they don’t have the desire to move because of families, » says Tobin.

Demand in a region may outstrip supply

On the opposite side of the spectrum, some geographic areas may be short on workers, not just because the economy is strong overall, but because housing prices have pushed those workers out of the area.

One Vancouver bakery, Solly’s Bagelry, famously closed shop for several weeks in 2017 because it didn’t have enough staff to operate.

Solly’s Bagelry in Vancouver closed for several weeks in 2017 due to a worker shortage. (CBC)

It may be hard for workers to get by on wages around $15 per hour in Vancouver, which has the highest housing costs in the country. The benchmark home price was $1,019,600 in January, according to data released by the Canadian Real Estate Association Friday, and rent for a one-bedroom apartment runs around $2,000 a month.

Some industries are struggling

The most notable exception to the overall good news stories emerging about Canada’s job market continues to be the oil and gas industry.

Workers prepare to load a tank car with oil at an Altex Energy terminal in Alberta. The oil and gas industry has still not recovered from losing more than 52,000 jobs in the 2015-2016 downturn. (Dave Rae/CBC)

« We lost about 52,500 direct jobs in 2015-2016, » says Carol Howes, vice-president of communications at Energy Safety Canada, a non-profit that advocates for workers in the oil and gas industry. « And while some of those have come back, certainly we’re not seeing the volume of activity or the requirement for the same number of workers as we lost. »

The result? Howes says the sector is seeing « a lot of discouraged workers » who may not want to come back to oil and gas « if and when things start to turn around again. »

Energy Safety Canada has been advising some of these workers on how they can transfer their skills to industries such as renewable energy and clean tech, says Howes.

As for the 2,500 workers facing unemployment with the closure of the GM plant in Oshawa, Ont., expected by December, Bernard says that, while there’s been some overall growth in auto manufacturing jobs in recent years, that comes after a long period of decline. It won’t be easy for Oshawa workers to find other jobs in the industry, he says, « given that new opportunities aren’t just springing up like they might be in other sectors of the economy. »

Not all jobs are good jobs

When we hear of job vacancies, it suggests there’s lots of choice for workers. But not all unfilled positions are ones that people can afford to take, because those jobs may not offer the salary, stability or benefits workers need.

« It’s definitely the case that jobs being plentiful doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good jobs, » says Bernard.

Over the past 10 years or so there’s been « a growing prevalence of term or contract employment and away from permanent employment. While jobs might be out there, they might not necessarily be everything that workers are looking for. »

Someone who loses a job in a decent-paying sector with low turnover could, in theory, take a lower-paying food services job, but that might not be the best decision for long-term career prospects, says Bernard.

« In that case, it might be better to hold off and look for the right fit, even if finding that match isn’t quite immediate. »

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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