AB hits record oil levels, but with fewer workers

According to new Statistics Canada data, Alberta was producing record oil levels this summer. But they were doing it with thousands of fewer workers.

Statistics Canada recently released data on energy production in Canada, and I thought it would be interesting to explore not only oil production in Alberta, but what the employment situation looks like in that sectors, as well.

The data update goes to only August 2022.

First, Alberta extracted 12,834,406 m3 of crude oil in August 2022. That works out to about 80,725,847 barrels.

The month before, Alberta extracted 12,464,486 m3. And the previous August, we extracted 11,992,812 m3.

Crude bitumen (which is the petroleum product normally associated with the so-called “oil sands”), on the other hand, was extracted to the tune of 10,363,435 m3.

That’s up from 10,036,513 m3 in July and 9,802,999 m3 the previous August.

Statistics Canada’s dataset goes back to only 2016, but here’s a look at the monthly extraction levels for both crude oil and crude bitumen over the last 6 years.

As you can see for both products, we’ve been consistently trending upwards, other than a slight setback in early 2020, as the pandemic was just beginning.

What we also see is that for both crude and bitumen, extraction is sitting at its highest level since August 2016. Crude oil extraction is up 32.91% over the last 6 years, and bitumen is up 37.35%.

Now, surely with the oil industry taking more product out of the ground, they must be employing a tonne more people, right? After all, it must take lots of people to extract all that extra crude.

Late last month, Statistics Canada also released employment data for August 2022. This data differs from the labour market survey results in that it specifically counts only workers who are on payroll, including those who are paid by the hour or are salaried employees.

In August 2022, the oil and gas extraction sector had 49,915 workers. By comparison, there were 51,414 workers in that sector 6 years earlier.

That doesn’t sound like an increase of 33%. In fact, it’s a drop of 3%.

Here’s a snapshot of how oil and gas jobs looked over the last 6 years.

Not only are oil and gas jobs down 3% from August 2016, but they’re down 6.9% since January 2018, when they had hit a high of 53,365 before tanking for the next 3 years!

So, while oil extraction might be at record levels, it doesn’t look as though that automatically results in more oil jobs.

Despite what Pierre Poilievre, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, suggests.

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By Kim Siever

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

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