Alberta has largest unemployment rate in Western Canada

Alberta had the highest unemployment rate outside of Atlantic Canada in December 2021

The federal government released their December 2021 job numbers earlier this week, and job numbers are up in Alberta.

The net increase to jobs between last month and November was 11,100.

Compared to February 2020, the month before the Alberta government implemented pandemic restrictions for the first time, total jobs are up 21,200.

Among workers 25 years of age and older, men workers saw the larger job increases, by far, between November and December. There were 10,600 more men over 25 back at work last month compared to November. That number drops to 9,700 if you include those who are 15–24 years old.

On the other hand, 4,000 more women over 25 were employed in December over the previous month—but it decreases to only 1,400 more women if you include the younger group.

Statistics Canada provided no data on non-binary workers.

In Alberta, 8 job sectors saw job gains for November (with “other services” seeing the highest gains: 7,700).

The 8 remaining sectors reported by Statistics Canada saw job losses in Alberta:

  • Wholesale and retail trade (-1,900)
  • Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing (-3,800)
  • Educational services (-2,500)
  • Transportation and warehousing (-2,500)
  • Business, building and other support services (-2,400)
  • Utilities (-1,600)
  • Information, culture and recreation (-1,200)
  • Agriculture (-1,100)

Combined, these 9 industries lost 20,700 jobs.

Labour Force Survey in brief: Interactive app, Statistics Canada

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

Change% change
Wholesale and retail trade28,5008.7%
Professional, scientific & technical services22,40012.9%
Accommodation & food services20,50019.9%
Educational services11,7007.7%
Transportation & warehousing8,7006.8%
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental & leasing8,7008.0%
Health care and social assistance8,5002.8%
Public administration6,9006.7%
Other services (except public administration)5,9006.1%
Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil & gas5,7004.2%
Information, culture and recreation5,0007.9%
Business, building & other support services2,5003.8%

The report shows that Alberta’s private sector grew by 12,300 between November and December, but there were 120,000 more private-sector jobs than this time last year. Public sector jobs were up by 8,200 over November but higher than December 2020 by 1,200. Self employed jobs were down by 9,500 over November but down by only 2,800 than they were in December 2020.

Full-time jobs made up all of the job gains last month. Alberta lost 5,100 part-time jobs (seasonally adjusted) between November and December, yet they gained 16,100 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 1,846,800 people working full-time in Alberta. Last month, that number was 1,865,000. That means there are 18,200 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 1,889,400 people working full-time. that means that we’re still missing 24,400 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 81.4%.

Speaking of full-time jobs, wages for full-time workers were down 23¢ last month, from $35.42 an hour in November. Part-time wage, on the other hand, increased, from $22.67 an hour in November to $22.77 in December. The average wage for both full-time and part-time jobs decreased to $32.91 an hour last month from $33.07 in November.

By industry, wages increased in about half of the sectors. However, the following sectors saw wage decreases:

Forest, fish, mine, quarry, oil & gas$49.07$46.66-$2.41
Health care & social assistance$32.78$31.18-$1.60
Transportation & warehousing$32.67$31.54-$1.13
Professional, scientific & technical services$42.10$41.20-$0.90

Alberta’s unemployment rate was 7.3%, down from 7.6% since November. This is the 10th time during the pandemic that it’s been below 10%, but it’s still higher than the 7.2% it was at prior to the pandemic. Maybe next month, we’ll finally break that 7.2% barrier.

The participation rate increased to slightly 69.3% compared to November.

As far as how it compares with the rest of the country, Alberta’s unemployment rate is fifth highest, being surpassed by all the Atlantic provinces. In fact, it has the highest unemployment rate outside of Atlantic Canada. Plus. it’s the only province west of the St. Lawrence with unemployment still above 6%. Québec’s is only 4.6%, and Alberta’s neighbours—BC and Saskatchewan—are at 5.3% and 5.4%, respectively.

Canada saw an increase in employment last month, with jobs across the country going up by 54,700.

The national unemployment rate decreased to 5.9%, down from November’s 6.0% but still higher than the pre-pandemic 5.7% the country saw in February 2020.

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By Kim Siever

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

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