Atlantic Canada’s economy is much more seasonal than the rest of Canada with a 12% seasonal variation in employment from the winter months to the peak summer months, compared with a 5% variation nationally. This seasonal variation in employment is most pronounced in primary industries (such as fishing, forestry and agriculture) and construction but there are also significant seasonal variations in employment in fish processing and tourism-related industries. Most of the seasonal employment in Atlantic Canada is in the rural parts of the region.
As a consequence, the seasonal use of employment insurance (EI) is much greater in Atlantic Canada than elsewhere. The EI program has attracted considerable controversy, reflecting tensions between its basic insurance role of providing temporary income assistance to workers who lose their jobs and acting as a program of income support, especially for recurrent and seasonal claimants. Federal EI policies have shifted back and forth on this issue during the last decade.
Demographic and economic forces will have significant implications for seasonal industries, workers and rural communities in Atlantic Canada over the next two decades, contributing to a decline in both the demand for, and the supply of, seasonal workers. Meanwhile, the need to improve the skills and training of workers, both seasonal and non-seasonal, will continue as firms seek to compete in a knowledge based economy.