Statistics Canada recently released data on payroll employment, and I was curious to see how Alberta fared with the rest of the country.
For the purposes of their data, Statistics Canada classifies someone as a payroll employee if they are paid “for services rendered or for absences, and for whom the employer must complete a Canada Revenue Agency T4 form”.
It includes full-time, part-time, casual, and temporary employees, as well as working owners, directors, partners, and other officers of incorporated businesses.
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It doesn’t include owners or partners of unincorporated businesses and professional practices, the self-employed, unpaid family workers, persons working outside Canada, military personnel, or casual workers for whom a T4 form isn’t required.
The data is current as of August 2023. Here’s how it breaks down for each province.
Alberta saw the fourth largest number of payroll employees this past August. I’m not surprised by that, given that it also has the fourth largest population in general.
But how have the provinces performed over time?
|Jul 2023||Aug 2023||Change||% change|
Well, compared to the previous month, Alberta didn’t fare that well, actually, seeing the fourth largest decrease in the total number of payroll employees in the country.
In fact, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island were the only provinces that saw an increase in payroll employees. Everyone else dropped.
As a percentage of July’s payroll employees, Alberta performed better. Their 0.15% decrease was only the second smallest decrease, behind only Newfoundland and Labrador.
Now, let’s take a look at how things changed over the last year.
|Aug 2023||Change||% change|
Here, Alberta does much better, jumping to second place, behind only Ontario; although Québec was nipping at Alberta’s heels, being the only other province that passed the 70,000 mark during this 12-month period.
Ontario really shot ahead of everyone else, increasing their payroll employees by more than double the amount seen by each the next 2 provinces. In fact, Ontario saw more new payroll employees as the next two provinces—Alberta and Québec—combined.
On a percentage basis, however, Alberta was still in second place, increasing their payroll employees by 3.49%. However, this time, they were behind Prince Edward Island—not Ontario—which saw a 3.88% increase.
Here’s the last two years.
|Aug 2021||Aug 2023||Change||% change|
Alberta drops back down to fourth place in terms of absolute numbers, with nearly 184,000 more people working on payroll than there were in August 2021. The three larger provinces all had passed the 200,000 mark.
On a percentage basis, however, Alberta is back at second place, again behind PEI: 9.50% compared to 13.89%.
Things start to get a little less rosy for Alberta when we head back to August 2022, 5 months into the COVID-19 pandemic.
|Aug 2020||Aug 2023||Change||% change|
Alberta is still in fourth place for absolute numbers, behind BC, Québec, and Ontario, of course, but they drop from second to third place when we look at the percentage change.
Alberta saw a 18.25% increase in payroll employees since August 2020, yet BC’s was 19.55% and PEI’s was 23.09%.
Going back 4 years to August 2019, which was only 4 months into the United Conservative Party’s first term, shows things getting worse for Alberta.
|Aug 2019||Aug 2023||Change||% change|
Alberta is in fourth place still, but the 3 provinces ahead of them saw massive gains in payroll employees over the last 4 years. BC, which was in third place, saw nearly 100,000 more payroll employees than Alberta did. And Ontario, which was in the top spot, passed the 350,000 mark, roughly 4 times more new payroll employees than what Alberta saw.
As far as percentages go, despite Alberta seeing nearly 90,000 more payroll employees than in August 2019—more than the next 3 provinces combined—this was an increase of onl 4.32%, the third lowerst in the country.
Only Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador saw smaller percentage increases.
The largest percentage increase went to Prince Edward Island, once again, which saw 11.58% more payroll employees over the last 4 years.
Let’s go back a bit further, to August 2018, the last August under the NDP government.
|Aug 2018||Aug 2023||Change||% change|
Here we see that while the United Conservative Party has been in power, Alberta has seen an increase of over 100,000 payroll employees, the fourth largest increase in the country.
However, their increase was outshadowed by the three larger provinces. BC saw an increase that was more than double that of Alberta, Québec’s was more than triple, and Ontario’s was more than quadruple.
As a result, on a percentage basis, Alberta was still in third last place. Only Newfoundland and Labrador (3.62%) and Manitoba (3.81%) did worse.
PEI was once again in the lead, with a 14.69% increase in payroll employees. BC (10.60%) and New Brunswick (10.11%) joined PEI in being the only provinces that saw double digit percentage increases since the summer of 2018.
So, while the number of people working has indeed increased in Alberta under the UCP, it increased in every other provinces as well, and it increased at faster rates in 7 of them.
Oh, and since our relative increase has been so slow, it has allowed the other provinces to eat into our share of the national jobs. Take a look at this graph.
In August 2018, Alberta had 12.04% of the payroll employees in the country. As of this past August, that number was 11.75%. The number was pretty stagnant between August 2018 and April 2019, when the UCP won their first election.
But the following month, that percentage began to drop, and it continued to do so (other than a brief spike at the start of the pandemic) until September 2020, when it plateaued again briefly.
In the roughly 3 years since then, the percentage has been climbing, but there’s been another plateau at around the 11.75% mark that began this past April. Even so, it still has about 25 basis points before we can get back to 2018 level.
And at this rate, we might be waiting for another year. At least.