06/05/2012 08:13 EDT | Updated 08/05/2012 05:12 EDT

Seasonal workers may have hard time finding winter work

Some Island employers said the federal government's plan to reform Employment Insurance and get seasonal workers employed year round may be a tough one to execute on P.E.I.

Several Island businesses have told CBC News that during the winter months, when seasonal employees would be looking for work, they are usually not hiring and said they even lay off staff or reduce store hours.

Les Wong, owner of the Charlottetown Home Hardware, said that is the case at his store.

"We'd love to hire more people at that time of year, but simply, business does not simply command the traffic," he said.

According to recent data from Statistics Canada, for every eight Islanders looking for work last winter, there was just one job available.

While the federal government is telling repeat users of EI that this year they have to lower their pay standards and look harder and farther for work, SkillsPEI Director Birt MacKinnon said he's not sure many will have much luck.

"Businesses have told us there are vacancies in certain locations around the Island. But they require higher skill, a higher training competency," he said.

"If you're a fisherman, or a farmer, or a labourer working in (those) industries, that's going to require you to go back to school."

Though one major employer on P.E.I. has a more positive take on prospective winter employment.

D.P. Murphy Inc. runs several Tim Hortons, Wendy's and hotels on the Island and spokesperson Dianne Griffin said the fall is actually a good time to apply for work.

"As far as the fall, we are in a recruitment need because we have people that go off Island, out west, students going back to school," Griffin said, "so we're trying to fill those positions."

MacKinnon suspects that even if the federal government forces unemployed Islanders to scour the province for work this winter, thousands may still be on EI.