Have you seen viral videos of long lineups of people looking for work? Here’s the possible reason for them


Videos and pictures of hundreds of people lined up outside businesses in Ontario in efforts to land jobs have gone viral on social media.

The videos, taken in Waterloo region and other cities, include ones on the social media platform Reddit, where users reported seeing lineups at a Dollar Tree in Windsor in October and a Food Basics in Hamilton in August. Many comments under the posts speculate whether there’s a dire shortage of jobs.

But Mikal Skuterud, a professor of economics at the University of Waterloo and director of the Canadian Labour Economics Forum (CLEF), said that’s not the case.

“It’s just noise,” he said while analyzing the latest unemployment numbers from Statistics Canada.

The federal agency’s most recent data on unemployment, from November, shows the unemployment rate for the Kitchener-Waterloo region last month was at 6.1 per cent.

Ever since the rule changed for the (international) students, they are eligible to work full time … and the number of applicants has gone crazy– Manu Bahl, co-owner of an employment agency in Kitchener

That’s slightly higher than October, when it was at 5.7 per cent. And October’s rate is higher than the unemployment rate for September, which was recorded at 5.3 per cent.

“The statistical precision of these estimates is they’re going to bounce around just because there aren’t a lot of folks being sampled in any given month,” Skuterud said.

“Depending on who by random chance are the folks who get sampled in one month, you might get more unemployed people, and in the next month, just by random chance, you get fewer. I would not look at these data and say that there’s any evidence that unemployment rates are increasing in K-W. I don’t see that in this data.”

Social media users have been posting pictures and videos like this of people seen waiting in long lines for work in Kitchener. (u/Anarcho-Warlord on Reddit)

Skuterud said there has actually been a dramatic decline in job vacancies.

“Imagine you’re running a business and you’re selling a good in a market, a product market, whatever it is that good sells for a price,” he said.

“If you’re running a business and you notice suddenly that the price you can charge for the good is increasing really quickly relative to the wage, then you are potentially making more money … If you were using machines and technology to produce with, now you want to rely more on labour (because) it’s cheap relative to everything else.”

He said that’s quickly turning around as the cost of labour catches up with the inflated price of goods and services.

‘Everything in the resumé is a lie’

Vanessa Gale and Manu Bahl are co-owners of New World Momentum, an employment agency in Kitchener.

They said more than 2,500 of the applications they received this year were from international students, making up about 90 per cent of all the applications they’re processing.

“There’s so many people saying they’re going months and months, like some people up to six months, without a job,” Gale said.

“Every day we are getting 10 to 15 refugees or work permit holders along with 10 to 15 students. Ever since the rule changed for the (international) students, they are eligible to work full time … and the number of applicants has gone crazy,” Bahl added.

Bahl and Gale said they’ve also noticed a sharp increase in the number of applicants applying for jobs for which they’re not qualified.

“People will show up with their beautiful resumés saying all good things. That makes us happy for a second, and when you start talking to them, you will get that everything in the resumé is a lie,” Bahl said.

Bahl cited the example of a man who said he had four years of welding experience, then later confessed he had lied during his job interview.

“What we’re hearing from people is they feel they have to have that kind of experience on their resumés,” Gale added. “When we ask people why they do this … they’re saying they just feel like they have to be more competitive because the job market is so tough.”

‘Don’t waste your time’

Ashish Bhatia came to Waterloo as an international student. Today, his Instagram page has more than 27,000 followers asking him for advice on immigrating to Canada.

video screen grab
This video of hundreds of students lined up for a job in Kitchener was posted on Reddit, receiving hundreds of comments and upvotes. (u/MrCrix on Reddit)

Bhatia said he has noticed international students don’t know where to look for jobs.

“They don’t know the resources which they can avail to actually get a job,” he said.

“Let’s say there’s a lineup of 100 people. I’m 100 per cent sure they won’t be hiring all 100 people … So don’t waste your time in places where you know the probability of you getting a job is very less.”

LISTEN | Reporter Aastha Shetty looks into the viral videos of long lineups of people trying to get work:

The Morning Edition – K-W10:46Viral videos show long lineups of people waiting to get a job in Waterloo region

You may have seen the viral videos and images by now: hundreds of people lined up with their resumes in hand, waiting to drop their application off all at the same business in K-W. Is there really such a dire shortage of jobs in the region right now? CBC’s Aastha Shetty is taking a closer look.

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