|By Cameron McCallum,
Regional Vice President at Eagle
Last time I wrote an update on the Edmonton job market, things were admittedly a bit stagnant and the Alberta economy continued to limp along. Activity in the IT sector, however, was still robust as organizations continued to push through large projects aimed at digitizing and automating their work environments. The public sector, a major contributor to the Edmonton economy, was still a large part of the IT contracting market and it felt like Edmonton, as it is inclined to do, would ride out the storm. How things have changed. Edmonton ended 2019 with the highest jobless rate in the country at 8%, almost 2 full points up from the previous December. Interestingly, Edmonton and Calgary basically swapped places with our neighbors to the south finishing the year with an unemployment rate of 7%. Other underlying numbers demonstrate the challenges the city is now facing:
- GDP growth is at its lowest since 2015 (.5%);
- Full time jobs have been declining, many of those positions formally in the public sector as the newly elected provincial government slashes spending as per the October budget; and,
- If you are a young person aged 15-24, your options for employment have slipped drastically, with unemployment for that demographic at around 17% according to Stats Canada.
How does all this affect you if you are an Information Technology professional. The most obvious hit is the belt tightening going on in most government sectors. At Eagle, we’ve already witnessed the early termination of projects and the scaling back of major initiatives. And that has affected employees and contractors alike. The provincial government has also eliminated several tax incentives directly targeted at attracting technology firms in BC and other jurisdictions to relocate to Alberta. While hard to directly quantify what this means in terms of jobs and lost opportunity, it’s just one more blow to the tech sector.
What is also becoming evident is that the competition for contracts and jobs is heating up. You are not only competing with a greater number of candidates, but you can likely expect rates to become more competitive in the short term as individuals sharpen their pencil to better their chances of winning.
So, what can you do if you find yourself without a contract and panic starting to set in? First, stop panicking… there are options.
If you have saved funds for just such a purpose, how about taking that certification, course or program to skill up and make yourself as marketable as you possibly can. It can be hard to find the time, especially as a contractor, to keep up with your training, now might be a good time to do so.
Or, you might want to consider moving to a market that currently has demand for IT professionals. I’ve written before about moving to Winnipeg to take on contract work there. The reasons are simple. Lots of opportunity, less competition and a cost of living that makes it easier to relocate vs other urban centers such as Toronto or Vancouver. Remember, it doesn’t have to be forever, just enough time to weather the storm.
Hopefully, the storm won’t last and there might even be some good news. Edmonton gained 3100 positions in December and unemployment is expected to level off and perhaps move from its current position to the 7 – 7.5% range, according to City economists. In the meantime, stay close to your favorite recruiters and seek advice from them about how to make yourself as competitive and attractive a candidate as possible.