GM cuts will be painful, but better now than during a recession: Don Pittis | CBC News

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CBC News James Alexander Michie

Two workers embrace before their meeting on Monday. (Eduardo Lima/Canadian Press)

While lives will be disrupted, experts say there’s demand for GM’s skilled workers

“It could have been worse” will be of no comfort to those affected by the shutdown and job losses at General Motors. It has been a shock to affected families and to the communities where plants are closing.

“It’s going to affect the province, it’s going to affect the region,” said Oshawa, Ont., mayor John Henry after hearing that the historic Ontario GM plant that his community has hosted and supported for more than a century will be closing. Thousands of workers will be laid off.

“If you look out the window right now and look at the weather, that’s the mood in the city of Oshawa,” Henry told CBC Toronto radio host Matt Galloway on an overcast Monday, shortly before GM’s official announcement.

Silver lining

Despite the devastating impact on individual lives, the stormy grey clouds may have a silver lining. For the economy as a whole, the GM layoffs both in Canada and the U.S. could hardly have come at a better time.

For employees who are able and willing to move, experts in worker compensation said many people who are losing their jobs will be able to command good wages in an economy where many skills are in short supply.

“Canadian employers are indicating that labour shortages are becoming a growing issue,” said Brendon Bernard, economist at online job search company Indeed Canada.

Oshawa’s economy will suffer. But GM employees who can move will have better job prospects now than they would during a widespread economic downturn. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

While the automotive sector has been shrinking in Ontario over the last decade, and there will inevitably be damaging spillover effects on an already weakened regional economy, there is still strong demand for skilled manufacturing workers, especially in Quebec and British Columbia.

While previous layoffs have come in waves during recessions, General Motors has made their move not at the bottom of an economic cycle but near the top. And that will make a big difference.

“Recessions are an especially bad time to lose a job,” said Bernard. Right now, unemployment remains at multi-year lows and the number of available skilled workers is actually shrinking.

“In both Canada and the U.S., the share of population reaching retirement age is rising,” he said.

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Source: Don Pittis | CBC News

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