Alberta lost 70,000 salaried employees since UCP were elected

Alberta has the worst performance since 2018 of all the provinces.

Yesterday, Statistics Canada released data on payroll employment, earnings, hours, and job vacancies. I thought I’d highlight the information for Alberta.

First, the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours differs somewhat from the Labour Force Survey you might normally hear governments talk about.

The LFS mentions overall employment and unemployment rates, number of people working, and that sort of thing. The SEPH, on the other hand, is specific to employees who receive pay or benefits from an employer; it excludes self-employed workers, owners and partners of unincorporated businesses and professional practices, and workers in the agricultural sector.

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In September 2021, there were 1,953,948 salaried employees in Alberta. That’s up only slightly from August, when there were 1,953,410, an increase of 0.03%.

Last September, there were 1,831,006 salaried employees in Alberta, which means the number has increased by 122,942, or 6.71%. Which makes sense, given that a lot of people were still out of work a year ago. With restrictions being lifted over the last year, naturally, we’d see more salaried employees.

But how does is it compare to before the pandemic?

Well, in September 2019, there 2,035,898 salaried employees in the province. So, even though we’re 6.71% higher than we were a year ago, we’re still 4.48% below where we were two years ago.

But there’s something you should know: not all of that 4.48% drop is tied up in the pandemic.

Here, let me show you.

So, like I said, there was a huge drop early on in the pandemic, and the numbers have been slowly climbing for the last year and a half; although, it’s sort of plateaued in the last few months, increasing only 0.77% between July and September 2021.

But do you notice right before that pandemic drop? Let’s zoom in for a better look.

You see that? The number of salaried employees were already declining for months prior to the election.

Total salaried employees had been increasing for months, but that all stopped in September 2019, when the numbers started to decrease. And actually, while there were technically increases just before then, they were small.

For example, the numbers were virtually unchanged between May 2019 and June, increasing by less than 100 employees. In fact, between April 2019 (when the UCP won the provincial election) and August, the number of salaried employees in Alberta increased by only 0.77%.

And between August 2019—the last month of the increases and only 1 month after the so-called Job Creation Tax Cut—and February 2020—the month right before pandemic restrictions were implemented—Alberta lost 36,917 salaried employees, or 1.81%.

With jobs already on the decline for 6 months, it’s hard to say that the job losses that occurred during the pandemic were solely because of the pandemic. And had the pandemic not occured, it would’ve been interesting to see how far those numbers would’ve declined.

Even though jobs have been rising for over a year, they’re still not where they were just before pandemic restrictions came in. We’re still nearly 50,000 jobs short compared to February 2020, or 2.5%.

And that’s just with numbers just before the pandemic. September numbers are still over 85,000 short from August 2019, the month before numbers started to decline.

With numbers increasing only 0.03% between August and September and 0.77% between July and September, it may be awhile before we get back on track to where we were just before and shortly after the UCP were elected.

What about salaried employees by industry?

Well, here’s a graph showing how much each sector grew by between September 2018 and September 2021.

Of the 20 sectors in the dataset, only 7 saw growth in the number of salaried employees over the last 3 years:

Management of companies & enterprises11.16%
Finance & insurance9.90%
Health care & social assistance8.37%
Professional, scientific, technical services3.86%
Retail trade3.74%
Forestry, logging & support2.27%

That being said, it’s only an additional 39,667 employees. The 13 remaining industries combined saw a loss of 98,739 salaried employees. Here’s how many each of those 13 industries lost between 2018 and 2021:

Accommodation & food services-18,900
Mining, quarrying, oil & gas extraction-16,476
Administrative & support, waste management, remediation services-9,520
Other services (except public administration)-9,278
Educational services-7,671
Arts, entertainment, recreation-5,771
Real estate, rental, leasing-4,533
Wholesale trade-3,490
Information & cultural industries-3,129
Public administration-2,981
Transportation & warehousing-2,687

Like, I said before, a lot of this loss can be blamed on the pandemic, so let me show you how each industry performed year over year.

So, this one is kind of busy. I hope you can see some of what is happening here.

There are 12 industries that show year-over-year growth in all 3 years, but most of them see declining growth. However, 3 industries saw more growth in 2021 than they saw in the other 2 years:

Management of companies & enterprises11.19% 8.91%14.02%
Transportation & warehousing4.10% 2.90%6.11%
Wholesale trade0.99%0.95%1.55%

So, while everyone else was doing poorly this past year compared to previous years, they were growing in the number of people they were hiring.

Speaking of doing poorly, here are the 4 industries that did the worst. Not only did they have declining growth rates, they lost salaried employees in every year of the dataset.

Mining, quarrying, oil & gas extraction-2.39%-2.80%-3.71%
Information & cultural industries-2.69%-1.55%-3.46%
Other services (except public admin)-1.22%-0.22%-1.31%

These 4 sectors alone saw the loss of 39,130 salaried employees between 2018 and 2021.

Finally, let’s explore how Alberta did compared to the other provinces—who by the way, also experienced a pandemic.

Alberta actually had the worst performance over the last 3 years of all the provinces, seeing a 3.06% decrease, compared to the average of 0.77% of all provinces. The average of all the provinces except for Alberta is 1.19%.

Alberta was 1 of only 4 provinces who performed worse in 2021 than in 2018. The others were Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, and Manitoba.

Of the 6 provinces that performed better, New Brunswick led the pack at 4.48% growth.

Finally, let’s compare year-over-year growth for the provinces.

While Alberta was certainly hit hard during the pandemic, we see that they weren’t performing well even before the pandemic. They had the third smallest increase (behind Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba) in salaried employees between 2018 and 2019. They saw only a 1% increase during that time.

The following year—the first year of the pandemic—every province saw losses, but Alberta’s was the worst, at -10.06%. We were the only province to drop below the -10% mark.

Between 2020 and 2021, Alberta saw the largest growth of all the provinces in the total number of salaried employees, at 6.71%. Ontario was second with 6.46%.

While it’s good news that Alberta has done better over the last year than any other province, a 6.71% jump isn’t going to get us out of a 10.06% hole, even if we tack on the 1% increase from the year before.

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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.

2 replies on “Alberta lost 70,000 salaried employees since UCP were elected”

Hi Kim — your first bar graph is described as covering the 3-year period from September 2018 to September 2021, but the heading says 2018 vs 2020. Which is correct? It makes a big difference given that September 2020 was early in the return of pandemic-related job losses.

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