Statistics Canada recently released data on payroll employment for each of the provinces. The seasonally adjusted data was as of the end of the first quarter of 2023.
This data is different from the labour force data I reported on for March, in that this specifically reports on workers who are on payroll.
In particular, it includes full-time employees, part-time employees, as well as permanent, casual, temporary, and seasonal employees. It also includes working owners, directors, partners, and other officers of incorporated businesses, as well as employees who work at home or on the road but report to the location.
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However, what it doesn’t include are owners or partners of unincorporated businesses and professional practices, the self-employed, subcontractors, external consultants, unpaid family workers, persons working outside Canada, and military personnel, as well as employees on unpaid leave, such as those on extended sick leave who are receiving insurance benefits.
I figured I’d take a look to see how the job situation looks in each province for the first quarter of 2023.
Unsurprisingly, Alberta had the fourth largest number of payroll employees in Canada. After all, they do have the fourth largest population in general.
In March 2023, there were 1,999,585 payroll employees working in Alberta. The month before, that number was 2,007,845. That’s a 8,260 decrease, the sixth largest decrease in the country.
|Q4 2022||Q1 2023||Change||% change|
When we look at the increase as a percentage of the first quarter job numbers, we see that Alberta actually had the smallest decrease.
Alberta had the fourth largest increase when we compare to the first quarter of 2022, a year earlier and two years after the province first introduced public health protections related to the pandemic.
|Q1 2022||Q1 2023||Change||% change|
Alberta jumps to first place, however, in terms of percentage change over that year.
Here is what things look like going back to the first quarter of 2021, two years prior and a year into the pandemic.
|Q1 2021||Q1 2023||Change||% change|
Alberta had the fourth largest increase in payroll employment but the highest when we look at percentage-based increase.
However, things start to look less rosy the further we go back.
For example, check out what the numbers look like when compared to the first quarter of 2020, 8 months since the UCP government introduced what they dubbed the “Job Creation Tax Cut” and the same month the government introduced public health protections related to the pandemic.
|Q1 2020||Q1 2023||Change||% change|
Alberta’s growth in payroll employees since the first quarter of 2020 was the fourth best of all the provinces in Canada, in total numbers. However, that growth was drastically lower than the 3 larger provinces. For example, British Columbia, which was only one spot above Alberta, saw an increase in payroll employment that was more than 2.5 times as large as Alberta’s, despite having a population that is only 14% larger.
On a percentage basis, Alberta actually saw the second worst growth of all provinces, coming in at 2.66%.
Ontario saw an increase in nearly 250,000 payroll employees during the same period. Québec and BC were the only other provinces to pass the 100,000 mark.
Finally, let’s compare this year’s first quarter numbers to the first quarter of 2019, the last first quarter during the NDP administration.
|Q1 2019||Q1 2023||Change||% change|
Once again, Alberta saw the fourth largest increase in absolute numbers, but, once again, it trails behind the three other large provinces. Ontario passed the 300,000 mark, Québec broke 200,000, and BC was over 200,000. BC’s increase was 3.5 times larger the increase that Alberta saw, despite having, as I said earlier, only 14% more people living there.
By percentage, Alberta was in second-to-last place, at just 2.52%.
Keep in mind that Alberta’s population increased by 7.3% during the same period—or rather between March 2019 and March 2023—which means the growth in payroll jobs we did see wasn’t even enough to give jobs to the people who were moving to the province, let alone those who were already here and were still unemployed.
PEI saw the largest increase in percentage growth, at 8.78%
On that note, PEI’s corporate tax rate is 16%. Despite having a corporate income tax rate that is twice as high as Alberta’s, PEI was able to grow their payroll employees by almost 3 times more than Alberta could.
Maybe how low a tax on corporate profits is actually has no bearing on job growth.
Finally, here’s a look at the monthly growth in payroll employees for Alberta since March 2019.
The missing data in the second and third quarters of 2020 are unavailable due to some Statistics Canada operations being temporarily suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it might seem impressive on the surface that Alberta saw an increase of 231,215 payroll employees over the last 2 years, it looks like most of that was recovery from the pandemic.
In fact, as I pointed out earlier, over the last 3 years, from just as the pandemic was starting, Alberta saw an increase of just 51,785 payroll employees. That means that of the 231,215 additional payroll employees we’ve seen since March 2021, 179,430 are likely exclusively recovery positions. That works out to about 77.6%.
Not only that, but between the first quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020, Alberta had lost 2,575 payroll employees, so we were already on a decline before the pandemic hit.
And it wasn’t even until last April—over 3 years—that we finally passed the number of payroll employees we had in March 2019.