EDITORIAL – Are all those ‘Help wanted’ signs good news or bad news?

(Image: Tim Mossholder,

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

EVERYWHERE WE GO, there are “Now hiring” or “Help wanted” signs on local businesses.

StatsCan reports the country has regained 100 per cent of jobs lost during the early lockdown days of the pandemic. In September alone, 378,000 new jobs were created, most of them full-time.

So what accounts for all those unfilled jobs as reflected by the explosion of “Helped Wanted” signs?

One possibility is that the labour market can’t keep up to demand in this newly booming economy.

Another is that many workers have found other employment and don’t want to go back to their old jobs.

But there’s a third option, which is that pandemic wage subsidies have created a reluctance to go looking for work.

That suspicion might be why the business community seems pleased with the shifts in support by the feds, characterized as less broadly based and more targeted to helping specific sectors that are still struggling.

Several programs were allowed to expire on the weekend, while others will be extended.

But the idea that the workforce is full of couch potatoes is a generalization and an offensive one at that. Many of those help-wanted signs are at businesses that pay their employees at the lower end of the wage scale, and provide a modicum of benefits.

Some have even fought against increases to the minimum wage.

Economist Jim Stanford says federal supports for workers impacted by the pandemic aren’t the culprit in hiring difficulties. What’s needed are better wages and working conditions. Coincidentally, today is the last day of provincial consultations on paid sick leave, a move most British Columbians agree with. The only real question is whether it will be three days or 10.

Whichever it is, it will keep work places safer and retain employees longer.

Businesses have been tremendously innovative and resilient during this pandemic. But, maybe they need to look to themselves when they wonder why it’s hard to find good workers.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9378 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on EDITORIAL – Are all those ‘Help wanted’ signs good news or bad news?

  1. Just remember businesses that pay wages on the lower end scale would have to not only raise the wages they pay, but also cover sick pay. The only way they can do that is by putting up their prices, be it services or merchandise sales. And it isn’t the government that pays for that lovely scenario. It is us, the customer. And guess what? I won’t. No more going out and I am quite happy to not purchase stuff on the level I used to. The only businesses I see booming are second hand businesses. If thats the world you want, then by all means go for it.

  2. Can’t take Jim Stanford opinion as a given. In very many cases working conditions are inherently unchangeable. Perhaps the newer generation of workers are too heavily influenced by cyberspace…wanting to be an “influencer” of sorts trumps being outside in all kind of weather with pick and shovel or other commonplace instruments belonging to the ones who builds things, like houses and infrastructure. Far too long blue collar work has been demonized as “inferior”, proletariat-type stuff, hence there has been a build-up resistance to it. It has become a real, pervasive issue in our society.

  3. It was a different time and a different place; a teenage guy looking for a summer job while living in a small farming community in SW Ontario. It wasn’t great pay but farm work was available for anybody who wanted to do it. It meant getting up at daybreak to work growing cucumbers under contract for Bicks Pickles or riding a bicycle 2 miles each way to cut a large lawn once a week with a gasoline-powered push mower or doing hay bales by hand.
    The drawback is that not enough sunscreen was available to protect exposed skin from long hours in the sun. Generally, any sunscreen got washed away by perspiration anyway. As a grey-haired fellow, I now deal with some basal cell carcinoma.
    Looking back, farm work gave me a strong body and I was too tired to get into trouble hanging around with the wrong crowd.
    Of late, experience on farms as a teenager gave me the experience to recognize contaminated ground when I saw it as an adult near retirement age……….

    It still bothers me a bit to see farmers advertising for “foreign workers” when we have an available crop of young folks looking for work each summer. Have the government look at kicking in a few dollars an hour to a registered education fund for our own young people to work on farms.

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