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AB only province in Canada to lose payroll employees

Since May 2019, the month after the UCP were elected, Alberta has lost nearly 14,000 payroll employees, the worst performance of any province.

Yesterday, Statistics Canada released updated data on employment and average weekly earnings for each of the provinces. The new seasonally adjusted data was as of May 2022.

I figured I’d take a look to see how the job situation looks in Alberta.

This data is different from the labour force data I reported on for May, in that this specifically reports on workers who are on payroll.

ON6,600,687
QC3,892,945
BC2,382,597
AB1,982,021
MB606,016
SK487,026
NS430,310
NB337,029
NL214,661
PEI73,584

Unsurprisingly, Alberta had the fourth largest number of payroll employees in Canada. After all, they do have the fourth largest population in general.

In May 2022, there were 1,982,021 payroll employees working in Alberta. The month before, that number was 1,985,468. That’s a 3,447 decrease, the second largest decrease in the country.

Apr 2022May 2022Change% change
BC2,377,5412,382,5975,0560.21%
NL213,579214,6611,0820.51%
SK486,234487,0267920.16%
PEI73,04073,5845440.74%
NS429,874430,3104360.10%
NB337,035337,029-60.00%
MB609,034606,016-3,018-0.50%
QC3,896,0483,892,945-3,103-0.08%
AB1,985,4681,982,021-3,447-0.17%
ON6,633,6606,600,687-32,973-0.50%

When we look at the increase as a percentage of April’s job numbers, we see that Alberta still had the second largest decrease; although Ontario and Manitoba were tied for the largest.

However, Alberta had the fourth largest increase when we compare to May 2021, a year earlier and a year after the province first introduced public health protections related to the pandemic.

May 2021May 2022Change% change
ON6,006,1396,600,687594,5489.90%
QC3,638,3343,892,945254,6117.00%
BC2,193,2112,382,597189,3868.64%
AB1,831,5491,982,021150,4728.22%
NS401,652430,31028,6587.14%
MB581,114606,01624,9024.29%
SK463,231487,02623,7955.14%
NB321,623337,02915,4064.79%
PEI67,98273,5845,6028.24%
NL209,208214,6615,4532.61%

As I said at the outset, this shouldn’t be that surprising, given that we have the fourth largest population in general. Alberta is also in fourth place in terms of percentage change over the last year.

However, things start to look less rosy the further we go back.

For example, check out what job numbers look like when we compare May 2022 to May 2020, two months into the pandemic.

May 2020May 2022Change% change
ON6,006,1396,600,6871,409,45327.15%
QC3,638,3343,892,945838,59127.46%
BC2,193,2112,382,597524,48028.23%
AB1,831,5491,982,021392,09424.66%
MB581,114606,016104,45520.83%
SK463,231487,02686,35121.55%
NS401,652430,31085,73924.88%
NB321,623337,02962,64722.83%
NL209,208214,66142,65024.79%
PEI67,98273,58416,91429.85%

Alberta has seen the fourth largest increase in total jobs over the last two years, but relative to the number of jobs they had in March 2022, Alberta has seen the fourth worst growth in the country.

And look how bad things are if we go 3 years out, to May 2019, which was the month after the UCP were elected.

May 2019May 2022Change% change
QC3,727,5443,892,945165,4014.44%
ON6,487,6106,600,687113,0771.74%
BC2,276,7012,382,597105,8964.65%
NB320,489337,02916,5405.16%
NS414,547430,31015,7633.80%
SK476,213487,02610,8132.27%
PEI67,11073,5846,4749.65%
NL210,476214,6614,1851.99%
MB604,556606,0161,4600.24%
AB1,995,8221,982,021-13,801-0.69%

Alberta has seen the worst job creation record of all 10 Canadian provinces, with nearly 14,000 fewer payroll employees than we had 3 years ago.

No other province saw such a large drop, in total numbers or in percentages.

In fact, we were the only province that saw fewer payroll employees now than we had 3 years ago.

Québec saw an increase in over 165 payroll employees during the same period. BC and Ontario both passed the 100,000 mark. And PEI grew their number of payroll employees by nearly 10%.

Here’s how the jobs in Alberta have changed over the last 3 years, by industry.

May 2019May 2022Change% change
Accommodation and food services165,887155,857-10,030-6.05%
Educational services159,154150,205-8,949-5.62%
Other services (except public administration)76,90071,632-5,268-6.85%
Real estate and rental and leasing42,29237,342-4,950-11.70%
Administrative and support, waste management and remediation services95,32090,605-4,715-4.95%
Management of companies and enterprises21,45017,883-3,567-16.63%
Public administration112,014108,805-3,209-2.86%
Manufacturing124,111121,164-2,947-2.37%
Arts, entertainment and recreation42,12239,986-2,136-5.07%
Information and cultural industries27,59426,070-1,524-5.52%
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction98,11996,596-1,523-1.55%
Trade342,817341,929-888-0.26%
Forestry, logging and support3,2233,3511283.97%
Utilities13,70315,6331,93014.08%
Transportation and warehousing104,226107,8013,5753.43%
Finance and insurance62,78867,9605,1728.24%
Construction171,560177,0925,5323.22%
Professional, scientific and technical services118,623127,5678,9447.54%
Health care and social assistance218,482230,09111,6095.31%

Only 7 industries have seen a net increase in payroll employees over the last 3 years. The other 12 all saw losses, the largest of which was in the hospitality sector, which lost over 10,000 payroll employees.

And that’s despite having one of the lowest job vacancy rates in the country.

The job vacancy rate is the number of job vacancies expressed as a percentage of labour demand.

PEI7.8
QC6.4
BC6.4
NB5.8
ON5.4
NS5.2
MB5.2
AB5.2
SK5.1
NL4.9

And, as you can see from the above table, Alberta had the third lowest job vacancy rate in Canada this past May.

You’d think that a province with such a low vacancy rate wouldn’t have so many jobs still missing.

In fact, according to Statistics Canada, Alberta still has 106,630 payroll employee vacancies. Seems weird that we still have over 27,000 fewer people working than we did 3 years ago.

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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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