Job losses deepest in agriculture: StatsCan

Canada’s agriculture sector lost more jobs on a percentage basis in 12 months’ time than any other employment sector in the country, according to Statistics Canada.

The federal statistical agency reported Friday that about 307,800 people were employed in the ag sector in January 2009, down from 316,200 in December 2008 and down by 32,600 from 12 months previous, for a 12-month percentage loss of 9.6 per cent.

By comparison, Canada’s total employee (as opposed to self-employee) workforce dropped one per cent (148,600 jobs) during the previous 12 months.

The self-employed workforce was up 2.3 per cent, public sector workforce up 0.1 per cent, construction up 1.7 per cent and resources (forestry, fishing, oil, gas, mines) up 0.4 per cent. Accommodation and food services employment rose 2.9 per cent. Manufacturing dropped 7.4 per cent.

Canwest News Service correspondent David Akin on Tuesday quoted federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, coming out of a meeting with his provincial counterparts, as saying the job losses in agriculture are due in part to the evolution of the industry, with farmers aging and farm size increasing.

Job losses in agriculture weren’t evenly distributed across all provinces, however. In Ritz’s home province of Saskatchewan, for example, ag sector employment in January sat at 142,600 people, flat from December 2008 and up 2,700 (6.6 per cent) from 12 months previous.

Agriculture job losses were substantial either in total numbers or percentage-wise in other provinces. Quebec lost 17,900 ag jobs between January 2008 and 2009, down 24.7 per cent; Ontario lost 5,800 ag jobs in that time, down 6.7 per cent; and British Columbia lost 15,600 ag jobs, down 36.1 per cent.

Newfoundland and Labrador lost 900 ag-related jobs between January 2008 and 2009, for a loss of 56.2 per cent. Alberta lost 600, down one per cent.

Ag sector employment rose during the same 12 months in Nova Scotia (up by 700 people, or 10.6 per cent), New Brunswick (up 2,200 people, or 39.3 per cent) and Manitoba (up 700, or 2.6 per cent).

“Disappointment”

The job figures to which Ritz reacted were released before his meeting Monday in Ottawa with the provinces’ ag ministers. Discussing that meeting in a separate release Tuesday, Saskatchewan’s agriculture minister Bob Bjornerud expressed “disappointment” with the meeting’s outcome.

Bjornerud on Tuesday said he went into the meeting with “specific requests” in mind, such as immediate support for cattle and hog producers and changes to the AgriStability income stabilization program.

“The federal government is supporting other areas of the economy, such as the automotive industry,” Bjornerud said. “The livestock sector is equally as important in Saskatchewan, and throughout Western Canada, and there has not been sufficient federal support to this industry.”

In a separate release Tuesday, Nova Scotia Agriculture Minister Mark Parent noted that he emphasized the importance of the supply-managed dairy, poultry and egg sectors to his province’s ag sector.

“Nova Scotia is a strong supporter of supply management, recognizing its importance to stabilizing our entire agriculture and food sector,” he said in his release. “We are supportive of protecting a modern supply management system that is responsive to the needs of our producers and consumers.”

Provincial ministers agreed that a successful conclusion to the World Trade Organization trade negotiations are important to Canada’s agriculture sector, Parent reported.

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