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Alberta lost 40,000 payroll workers since UCP elected

That’s the worst performance of all the provinces during the same period.

Late last month, Statistics Canada released data on employment and average weekly earnings for February 2021. Naturally, I thought I’d go through it and see how Alberta compares to other provinces.

Here is how many workers there were in each province who were on payroll as of February 2022.

ON6,541,239
QC3,845,726
BC2,361,980
AB1,953,417
MB609,019
SK484,895
NS423,294
NB333,039
NL209,830
PEI71,721

Unsurprisingly, Alberta had the fourth largest number of payroll workers. It’s unsurprising because Alberta has the fourth largest population overall.

Now, let’s look at how it’s changed over time.

First, here’s how it changed since the start of the year:

Jan 2022Feb 2022Change% change
NB329,173333,0393,8661.17%
QC3,807,5203,845,72638,2061.00%
ON6,481,1616,541,23960,0780.93%
NS419,462423,2943,8320.91%
BC2,341,1372,361,98020,8430.89%
PEI71,09071,7216310.89%
NL208,196209,8301,6340.78%
AB1,939,9501,953,41713,4670.69%
MB605,631609,0193,3880.56%
SK484,216484,8956790.14%

In terms of absolute numbers, Alberta once again was in fourth place. However, when we look at how much it has changed relative to January’s numbers, we see that we drop to 3 from the bottom, having increased just 0.69%. Only Manitoba and Saskatchewan had lower relative increases.

Feb 2021Feb 2022Change% change
ON6,008,0536,541,239533,1868.87%
QC3,551,7333,845,726293,9938.28%
BC2,186,6782,361,980175,3028.02%
AB1,808,7371,953,417144,6808.00%
MB573,689609,01935,3306.16%
PEI67,88971,7213,8325.64%
SK459,555484,89525,3405.51%
NB318,845333,03914,1944.45%
NL202,668209,8307,1623.53%
NS408,989423,29414,3053.50%

When we switch to the last year, Alberta is back in fourth place, both in absolute numbers and as a percentage growth relative to last February.

However, the numbers are far less impressive when we look at data from February 2019, just before the UCP won the provincial election.

Feb 2019Feb 2022Change% change
PEI67,48471,7214,2376.28%
NB318,283333,03914,7564.64%
QC3,706,2143,845,726139,5123.76%
BC2,276,9682,361,98085,0123.73%
NS412,044423,29411,2502.73%
SK474,974484,8959,9212.09%
ON6,474,5326,541,23966,7071.03%
MB603,209609,0195,8100.96%
NL212,317209,830-2,487-1.17%
AB1,994,1671,953,417-40,750-2.04%

Over the last 3 years, Alberta has seen the worst performance of all the provinces, losing over 40,000 payroll employees during that period, over 2% of its workforce.

Only one other province saw a decline in payroll employees during that time: Newfoundland and Labrador, which lost roughly 2,500 payroll employees, or 1.17% of its workforce.

Now you might be thinking, “Yeah, but we’re coming out of a pandemic-fuelled recession.” That’s true. But then so is every other province.

And our job losses were occurring even before the pandemic shut everything down in March 2020.

Here, take a look.

Between March and July, the number of payroll employees in Alberta increased from 1,991,983 to 2,005,393. However, starting in August, that number kept dropping, and by February 2020, just one month before the government introduced public health protections that shut down the economy, we had lost over 27,000 jobs. Compared to the previous February, we were short nearly 16,000 jobs.

And then the pandemic hit, and we lost even more. Some of those jobs have returned, but we’re still missing over 40,000 of them. Or at least we were as of February 2022.

Now on to wages.

AB$1,244.49
ON$1,190.96
BC$1,160.43
NL$1,132.05
SK$1,122.58
QC$1,104.80
MB$1,047.59
NB$1,040.04
NS$1,006.34
PEI$962.48

According to the data, Alberta had the highest average weekly wages (including overtime) among all 10 provinces.

Average weekly earnings are derived by dividing total weekly earnings for the month by the total number of employees in the province.

Given that Alberta has the highest median wage in the country, it shouldn’t be that surprising that it also had the highest average weekly earnings.

Now let’s compare those earnings to previous periods.

Jan 2022Feb 2022Change
NL$1,114.98$1,132.05$17.07
MB$1,039.22$1,047.59$8.37
NB$1,032.43$1,040.04$7.61
QC$1,097.20$1,104.80$7.60
ON$1,187.64$1,190.96$3.32
BC$1,157.19$1,160.43$3.24
NS$1,004.29$1,006.34$2.05
PEI$963.04$962.48-$0.56
AB$1,247.75$1,244.49-$3.26
SK$1,138.71$1,122.58-$16.13

Here, we see that Alberta was one of only three provinces that saw average weekly wages drop from the previous month. Alberta had the second highest decrease, after Saskatchewan, where payroll workers lost over $16 a week.

Feb 2021Feb 2022Change
NL$1,075.36$1,132.05$56.69
BC$1,114.21$1,160.43$46.22
NS$963.59$1,006.34$42.75
QC$1,067.84$1,104.80$36.96
PEI$928.01$962.48$34.47
NB$1,006.62$1,040.04$33.42
SK$1,091.76$1,122.58$30.82
MB$1,022.46$1,047.59$25.13
AB$1,232.23$1,244.49$12.26
ON$1,182.53$1,190.96$8.43

While Alberta did see an increase between February 2021 and February 2022, every province did, and Alberta’s increase was the second smallest of all the provinces.

Newfoundland and Labrador saw the largest gains in average weekly wages, with payroll workers there gaining nearly $60 more a week.

Feb 2019Feb 2021Change
BC$974.12$1,160.43$186.31
ON$1,031.52$1,190.96$159.44
QC$947.75$1,104.80$157.05
NS$885.48$1,006.34$120.86
NB$920.55$1,040.04$119.49
PEI$848.97$962.48$113.51
AB$1,137.08$1,244.49$107.41
MB$950.61$1,047.59$96.98
SK$1,025.68$1,122.58$96.90
NL$1,036.49$1,132.05$95.56

When we look at average weekly wages for payroll workers over a 3-year period, we notice that Alberta does a bit better, bumping up to 4th last, instead of 2nd last.

So, while Alberta payroll workers are making more than they were 3 years ago, the amount their weekly wages increased by was outdone by 6 other provinces.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on municipal, provincial, and federal politics, specializing in investigative journalism and critical analysis from a leftist political lens. He also writes regular editorials on general politics and social issues.

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