Alberta has 3rd highest jobless rate in Canada

Alberta was the only province west of Atlantic Canada with unemployment still over 6%.

The federal government released their March 2022 job numbers earlier this week, and job numbers are up in Alberta.

The net increase to jobs between last month and February was 7,200.

Compared to February 2020, the month before the Alberta government implemented pandemic restrictions for the first time, total jobs are up 48,800.

Among workers 25 years of age and older, men workers saw the larger job increases, by far, between February and March. There were 6,000 more men over 25 back at work last month compared to February. That number increases to 6,600 if you include those who are 15–24 years old.

On the other hand, 5,600 fewer women over 25 were employed in February over the previous month—but the loss drops to only 600 more women if you include the younger group.

Statistics Canada provided no data on non-binary workers.

In Alberta, 7 job sectors saw job gains for November (with “wholesale and retail trade” seeing the highest gains: 18,400).

The finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing sector saw no change in employment in March 2022, but the 9 remaining sectors reported by Statistics Canada saw job losses in Alberta:

  • Transportation and warehousing (-5,600)
  • Professional, scientific and technical services (-5,500)
  • Other services, except public administration (-3,800)
  • Health care and social assistance (-3,500)
  • Construction (-2,800)
  • Agriculture (-2,400)
  • Manufacturing (-2,800)
  • Utilities (-900)
  • Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing (-600)

Combined, these 9 industries lost 26,400 jobs.

Labour Force Survey in brief: Interactive app, Statistics Canada

Compared to a year ago, the industry with the highest job losses was “transportation and warehousing”. “Wholesale and retail trade” saw the largest increase over the last year.

Transportation and warehousing-8,400-6.5%
Other services (except public administration)-7,400-7.5%
Educational services-6,400-3.7%
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing1,9001.7%
Health care and social assistance3,5001.1%
Public administration6,0006.1%
Business, building and other support services6,0008.2%
Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas9,0006.4%
Professional, scientific and technical services11,9006.5%
Information, culture and recreation21,10034.8%
Accommodation and food services29,70028.4%
Wholesale and retail trade39,00011.6%

The report shows that Alberta’s private sector grew by 4,500 between February and March, but there were 106,600 more private-sector jobs than this time last year. Public sector jobs were up by 4,100 over February but lower than March 2021 by 7,200. Self employed jobs were down by 1,500 over February and were 4,700 fewer than they were in March 2021.

Full-time jobs made up all of the job gains last month. Alberta gained 15,700 part-time jobs (seasonally adjusted) between February and March, yet they lost 8,400 part-time jobs.

All the part-time workers who lost their jobs were women. There were 9.600 women part-time workers who lost their job last month. By comparison, the number of men who worked part-time increased by 1,200 during the same period.

This is the first time in 2022 that Alberta has seen a gain in full-time jobs.

Between July 2019—when Jason Kenney introduced his so-called Job Creation Tax Cut—and February 2020, Alberta saw 4 months with drops in full-time jobs, for a total of 52,600 full-time job losses (if you account for gains made in other months).

In February 2020, there were 1,850,000 people working full-time in Alberta. Last month, that number was 1,870,400. That means there are 20,400 more people working full-time now than there were just before the pandemic.

However, in June 2019, the month before the Job Creation Tax Cut came into effect, there were 1,886,700 people working full-time. that means that we’re still missing 16,300 full-time jobs, despite there being more people working full-time now than there were just before the pandemic hit.

Not only that, but full-time jobs make up a smaller percentage of total jobs now than they did before the Job Creation Tax Cut. In June 2019, full-time jobs made up 82.5% of all jobs in the province. Last month, they were at 80.5%.

Speaking of full-time jobs, wages for full-time workers were up 14¢ last month, from $35.35 an hour in February. This is the highest average full-time hourly wages have been since May 2020.

Part-time wages, on the other hand, had decreased, from $23.17 an hour in February to $22.36 in February, it’s the lowest level since August 2021. The average wage for both full-time and part-time jobs decreased slightly to $32.94 an hour last month from $32.96 in February.

By industry, wages increased in 10 of the 16 reported sectors. However, the following sectors saw wage decreases:

Wholesale & retail trade$26.67$25.76-$0.91
Prof., scientific & technical services$39.79$38.91-$0.88
Educational services$36.43$35.62-$0.81
Public administration$42.16$41.91-$0.25
Forestry, fish., mining, quarrying, oil & gas$49.42$49.19-$0.23
Business, building & other support serv.$25.70$25.65-$0.05

As well, when we compare wage growth of all the provinces over the last year, Alberta has the second worst performance.


The national average hourly wage increased by $1.03 since March 2021. Alberta was 1 of 4 provinces who saw wage growth under a dollar and 1 of 2 with wage growth under 50¢.

Alberta’s unemployment rate was 6.5%, down from 6.8% in February. This is the lowest unemployment has been in Alberta during the entire time the UCP have been in power and the lowest it’s been since December 2018.

The participation rate decreased slightly to 69.3%, compared to 69.4% in February. Alberta had 700 fewer people participating in the labour force last month than they did in February. And when you have more people working but fewer people in the labour force, it’s going to cause the unemployment rate to drop.

As far as how it compares with the rest of the country, Alberta’s unemployment rate is third highest, tied with Nova Scotia. It was surpassed by 2 of the Atlantic provinces (8.1% and 12.9%). In fact, it has the highest unemployment rate in Western Canada and is the only province west of Atlantic Canada with unemployment still above 6%. Ontario’s is only 5.3%, and Alberta’s neighbours—BC and Saskatchewan—are at 5.1% and 5.0%, respectively.

In February, Alberta had fourth highest unemployment rate, and it was fifth highest in January, which means that it seems to be trending upwards. It’ll be interesting to see how it ranks in next month’s report.

Not only that, but if we compare the unemployment numbers for each province over the last 3 years, Alberta is one of only 2 provinces that hasn’t seen a drop in unemployment.

Mar 2019Mar 2022Change

Despite also experiencing a pandemic-fueled economic recession, 8 of the 10 provinces in Canada have unemployment numbers that are better than they were prior to the UCP gaining power. In fact, the national unemployment rate dropped 0.6 points since March 2019.

BC is the only province whose numbers have increased.

Alberta, on the other hand, has the same unemployment numbers that they did in March 2019. And that’s despite a government that promised “Jobs. Economy. Pipeline.” during the 2019 provincial election.

Canada saw an increase in employment last month, with jobs across the country rising by 72,500, the bulk of which occurred in Ontario (35,100) and Québec (27,100). BC was third with 10,500 new jobs, 45.8% more than Alberta.

The national unemployment rate decreased to 5.3%, down from February’s 5.5% and the lowest it’s been in nearly 40 years.

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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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