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More help wanted: Staffing shortages showing up in unexpected places


These continue to be golden times for job seekers in the Maritimes as the unemployment rate remains very low, and worker shortages are showing up in some unexpected places.

With the heat of the summer building-in, you don't have to look far to find construction workers in Halifax these days - yet there technically aren't enough of them.

With a stunning number of major projects in various stages, there's plenty of jobs available, but a shortage of people to fill them.

"Like every industry, we're really facing it because we need people out building," said President & CEO of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia, Duncan Williams.

Williams said it's essentially a perfect storm - a post-pandemic exodus into retirement for veteran workers, an ongoing shortage of young people entering the trades, and an explosion of new projects.

While there are few reports of projects being delayed or cancelled, timelines have gotten more flexible, he said.

A generations of Maritimers who've 'gone down the road' for work are now being urged to come home.

"So, going to Alberta may be still attractive to some people, but there's a message there, that there is an opportunity for you to stay here, work here, live here, raise a family here in Nova Scotia. And come home," said Williams.

The latest numbers from Statistics Canada indicate the national jobless rate is hovering just above five per-cent, with the Maritime provinces coming-in at six (N.S.), seven (N.B.) and 8.1 (P.E.I).

It's a sharp turnaround from a rate of more than 13 per cent when the pandemic shut everything down.

And the shortage is impacting any number of sectors.

The devastated hospitality industry has complained for months about staffing shortages, and officials admit things haven't gotten much better.

But labour shortages are also showing-up in some unexpected places.

Patrons using the Halifax ferry Sunday wound up on buses after service was suspended because of issues with "staff availability", according to the city.

"This was not related to the municipality's COVID-19 service impacts," said Ryan Nearing, a HRM Public Affairs Advisor, via email.

"The municipality apologizes for the inconvenience this disruption caused passengers."

The union, though, is blunter about the problem.

"They are short manpower, and they've been bringing a lot of people in on overtime shifts, and I think we're just generally getting a burnout," said Shane O'Leary, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 508.

Add in 'sick' and 'vacation' days, along with significant training sessions, and you've got a chronic problem, he says.

"It's a manpower issue, and there's very few ways to solve that, other than better wages and better work," said O'Leary

A weighty problem being faced by more and more sectors around here - lots of help wanted, and a shortage of people willing to take the jobs. Top Stories

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