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70,000 fewer salaried employees in Alberta since Job Creation Tax Cut

Nearly half of those were gone before the government implemented public health restrictions in March 2020.

Last week, Statistics Canada released data on payroll employment, earnings, hours, and job vacancies. I thought I’d highlight the information for Alberta.

First, the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours differs somewhat from the Labour Force Survey you might normally hear governments talk about.

The LFS mentions overall employment and unemployment rates, number of people working, and that sort of thing. The SEPH, on the other hand, is specific to employees who receive pay or benefits from an employer; it excludes self-employed workers, owners and partners of unincorporated businesses and professional practices, and workers in the agricultural sector.

In November 2021, there were 1,956,552 salaried employees in Alberta. That’s down from October, when there were 1,965,383, a decrease of 0.45%.

The previous November, there were 1,841,493 salaried employees in Alberta, which means the number has increased by 115,059, or 6.25%. Which makes sense, given that a lot of people were still out of work at the end of 2020. With restrictions being lifted over the last year, naturally, we’d see more salaried employees.

But how does is it compare to before the pandemic?

Well, in November 2019, there 2,027,048 salaried employees in the province. So, even though we’re 6.25% higher than we were a year ago, we’re still 3.41% below where we were two years ago.

But there’s something you should know: not all of that 3.41% drop is tied up in the pandemic.

Here, let me show you.

So, like I said, there was a huge drop early on in the pandemic, and the numbers have been slowly climbing for the last year and a half; although, it’s sort of plateaued in the last few months, increasing only 0.91% between July and November 2021.

But do you notice right before that pandemic drop? Let’s zoom in for a better look.

You see that? The number of salaried employees were already declining for months prior to the election.

Total salaried employees had been increasing for months, but that all stopped in September 2019, when the numbers started to decrease. And actually, while there were technically increases just before then, they were small.

For example, the numbers were virtually unchanged between May and June 2019, increasing by fewer than 100 employees. In fact, between April 2019 (when the UCP won the provincial election) and August, the number of salaried employees in Alberta increased by only 0.77%.

And between August 2019—the last month of the increases and only 1 month after the so-called Job Creation Tax Cut—and February 2020—the month right before pandemic restrictions were implemented—Alberta lost 36,917 salaried employees, or 1.81%.

With jobs already on the decline for 6 months, it’s hard to say that the job losses that occurred during the pandemic were solely because of the pandemic. And had the pandemic not occured, it would’ve been interesting to see how far those numbers would’ve declined.

Even though jobs have been rising for over a year, they’re still not where they were just before pandemic restrictions came in. We’re still about 46,000 jobs short compared to February 2020, or 2.29%.

And that’s only for the numbers just before the pandemic. November numbers are still about 83,000 short from August 2019, the month before numbers started to decline. That means about 45% of the jobs still missing were already gone before the province locked things down in March 2020.

With numbers increasing only 0.91% between July and November, it may be awhile before we get back on track to where we were just before and shortly after the UCP were elected.

And speaking of the Job Creation Tax Cut, the salaried employee numbers for November 2021 are still 70,342 lower than they were in June 2019, the last month before the tax cut was implemented.

What about salaried employees by industry?

Well, here’s a graph showing how much each sector grew by between November 2018 and November 2021.

Of the 20 sectors in the dataset, only 7 saw growth in the number of salaried employees over the last 3 years:

Health care & social assistance6.62%
Finance & insurance6.52%
Utilities6.37%
Professional, scientific, technical services2.70%
Transportation & warehousing0.79%
Retail trade0.44%
Management of companies & enterprises0.37%

That being said, it’s only an additional 24,297 employees. The 13 remaining industries combined saw a loss of 89,963 salaried employees. Here’s how many each of those 13 industries lost between 2018 and 2021:

Accommodation & food services-20,159
Mining, quarrying, oil & gas extraction-10,615
Educational services-9,858
Administrative & support, waste management, remediation services-8,927
Construction-7,699
Other services (except public administration)-7,677
Arts, entertainment, recreation-6,387
Manufacturing-6,057
Real estate, rental, leasing-4,794
Wholesale trade-3,591
Information & cultural industries-2,178
Public administration-1,800
Forestry, logging & support-221

Like, I said before, a lot of this loss can be blamed on the pandemic, so let me show you how each industry performed year over year.

So, this one is kind of busy. I hope you can see some of what is happening here.

Most sectors saw growth in 2019, just two in 2020, and every sector in 2021. Here are the 7 that lost jobs in 2019, and how they performed in all 3 years:

201920202021
Mining, quarrying, oil & gas extraction-3.71%-14.84%9.32%
Construction-3.65%-9.70%9.99%
Information & cultural industries-3.46%-13.29%10.10%
Other services (except pub. admin.)-1.31%-12.04%3.63%
Manufacturing-0.70%-11.15%7.82%
Public administration-0.52%-4.21%3.22%
Retail trade-0.09%-3.48%4.16%

While all 7 of them saw growth in the first 11 months of 2021, none of them have recovered completely from the combined losses they felt in 2019 and 2020.

Here’s how many workers they’re still short, from 2018 levels.

Mining, quarrying, oil & gas extraction-10,615
Construction-7,699
Information & cultural industries-2,178
Other services (except public administration)-7,677
Manufacturing-6,057
Public administration-1,800
Retail trade1,087

Retail trade was the only one of the 7 that saw more workers in 2021 than in 20218.

The other 6 sectors alone saw the loss of 36,026 salaried employees between November 2018 and November 2021.

Finally, let’s explore how Alberta did compared to the other provinces—who, by the way, also experienced a pandemic.

Alberta actually had the worst performance over the last 3 years of all the provinces, seeing a 3.02% decrease, compared to the average of 1.58% gain of all provinces. The average of all the provinces except for Alberta is 2.09%.

Alberta was 1 of only 4 provinces who performed worse in 2021 than in 2018. The others were Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba, and Ontario.

Of the 6 provinces that performed better, Prince Edward Island led the pack at 6.15% growth.

Finally, let’s compare year-over-year growth for the provinces.

While Alberta was certainly hit hard during the pandemic, we see that they weren’t performing well even before the pandemic. They had the fourth smallest increase in salaried employees between 2018 and 2019. They saw only a 0.48% increase during that time.

The following year—the first year of the pandemic—every province saw losses, but Alberta’s was the worst, at -8.95%.

Between 2020 and 2021, Alberta saw the fifth largest growth of all the provinces in the total number of salaried employees, at 6.25%. Ontario was first with 7.69%, and BC was second with 6.96%.

While it’s good news that Alberta has done better over the last year than some of the other provinces, a 6.25% jump isn’t going to get us out of a 9.15% hole, even if we tack on the 0.48% increase from the year before.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on politics and labour.

2 replies on “70,000 fewer salaried employees in Alberta since Job Creation Tax Cut”

Really informative information Kim, thank you. Do you see the recovery of jobs that UCP is bragging about in the Leg as Mc’Jobs? Also, do you have information where you can compare corporate profits by sector to job numbers? You might have already done that and if so I apologize and would thank you for the links.

Hi, Linda. I have several articles coming out this week on job numbers.

It’s really tough finding profit information by sector. Someone would have to go through annual reports for individual companies and compile themselves. But even then, most private companies would be left out of that.

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