Robert Parker has been out of work for more than a year. It’s tough enough on the Edmonton man, but even harder because he has nine children and thereby, nine mouths to feed.
“Stressful. [I] got lots of resumes out but haven’t [had] any calls,” he said.
Parker was a welder in the oilfields when he was laid off. He said he has sent out more than 100 resumes across Canada but hasn’t had any luck.
“We need work. I don’t want to be another statistic.”
Parker was just one of hundreds who lined up at the 27th annual Edmonton and District Labour Council Barbecue on Labour Day.
President Bruce Fafard said organizers started the event early this year because of the lineup. He said increased attendance at the barbecue may be the result of the downturn in the province’s economy.
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According to Statistics Canada, unemployment numbers are at their highest in Alberta since September 1994 – 8.6 per cent in July, a 0.7 percentage point increase from June.
From July 2015 to July 2016, the province lost 103,000 full-time jobs and while EI claims are down from previous months, the number of beneficiaries is essentially unchanged at 77,000 in June. Year over year, the total number of beneficiaries in the province is up 48 per cent.
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One man named Carl, who did not want his last name used, said he has been looking for work for more than a year.
Carl was laid off from his construction job and he adds he believes it was because of the drop in the price of oil.
“It’s been tough. It’s been very tough,” he said.
“Instead of [the province saying] ‘We have a plan to do it, we have a plan to help’…those plans take a long time. We want something immediate.”
However, Fafard said the provincial government is on the right track when it comes to the economy.
“The provincial government has been doing a good job of moving forward, like with the budget and investing in Alberta and into communities, infrastructure projects and not by cutting services,” he said.
Premier Rachel Notley said she understands people are hurting and the province is doing what it can to help them.
However, she touts how the province is maintaining civil service jobs and investing in a capital program to create 10,000 jobs a year.
“When you make capital available for diversification and for business to develop additional jobs – that takes a while. On the other side of it, we’re also dealing with job losses at the same time we’re injecting jobs into the economy,” she said.