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Alberta sucks at creating full-time jobs

Over the last 7 years, Alberta’s share of full-time jobs in Canada has been decreasing.

When I was reviewing Alberta’s labour market data for February 2022, I noticed that we haven’t seen an increase in full-time jobs at all this year so far.

And that made me wonder what full-time jobs have looked like in Alberta over the last while.

As I pointed out earlier this month, Alberta lost nearly 10,000 full-time jobs last month. We lost just under 4,000 full-time jobs in January. So this year alone, we’ve lost roughly 14,000 full-time jobs.

But is this part of a long-term trend or something temporary?

Here is the full-time jobs data for every month between February 2012 and February 2022.

Two things stick out to me right away. Over the last 10 years, Alberta has seen two large drops in the number of full-time jobs.

The first was during the recession between 20015 and 2016, and the second was during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In both cases, jobs never passed the record number of 1.896 million jobs set in January 2015, just months before the NDP took power.

All the growth in the number of full-time jobs during the NDP’s administration—from the summer of 2016 until the end of 2018—was all recovery growth.

Full-time jobs came close to the January 2015 numbers just once during the NDP administration. In November 2018, they peaked at 1.894 million. They dropped slightly the following month, then sort of plateaued for a few months before and after the UCP took power in 2019.

About 6 months after the 2019 election, full-time jobs started declining again, dropping from 1.873 million in October 2019 to 1.85 million in February 2020, the month before the Alberta government implemented public health protections related to the pandemic.

Over the next two months 3 months, full-time jobs plummeted, reaching a low of 1.613 million by May. During the UCP’s first 12 months, full-time jobs dropped 242,600.

Since May 2020, Alberta has recovered all the full-time jobs lost during the pandemic. As I mentioned, in February 2020, full-time jobs in Alberta sat at 1.85 million. Two years later, full-time jobs sat at 4,700 more full-time jobs.

However, while we may have recovered from the pandemic job losses, there are other job losses that we have yet to recover from.

For example, in April 2019, the month the UCP won the election, full-time jobs in Alberta were at 1.877 million. That means that last month, we were still 22,100 full-time jobs short of that mark.

In June 2019, the month before the UCP introduced the Job Creation Tax Cut—when they reduced the corporate income tax rate from 12% to 11%, and then by a year later down to 8%—there were 1.887 million full-time jobs, 32,000 more than we had last month.

And as I pointed out at the start of the article, we have had two months of declining full-time job numbers so far this year, a combined loss of 13,500 jobs.

Full-time jobs reached their post-pandemic peak just this past December, when the province saw 1.868 million full-time jobs. That peak, however, still is 18,500 fewer full-time jobs than in June 2019, before the Job Creation Tax Cut.

Plus, December 2021’s full-time job numbers, like the NDP’s peak recovery numbers, still came significantly short of the record high set in January 2015, a difference of 27,700 fewer full-time jobs.

Here’s a graph that I was actually kind of surprised by.

I’m sure you’ve heard that Alberta is the economic engine of Canada. Like, when Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s jobs minister, highlighted the increase in part-time jobs last month.

Well, apparently, that doesn’t refer to full-time jobs.

The above graph shows full-time jobs in Alberta as a percentage of all full-time jobs in Canada.

Alberta went from having a high of 13.22% of all Canadian full-time jobs in January 2015 to a low of 11.51% in November 2020.

For the first 3 years of this chart, Alberta was consistently increasing its share of the national full-time jobs. In fact, it increased at a rate of 0.013 points a month.

The numbers started dropping just a few months before the NDP got in, then kept dropping for nearly a year and half, going from 13.22% to 12.18%. That’s a monthly decline of 0.065 points.

That decrease was faster than the increase I mentioned above. Not only that, but the decline happened in half the time.

Around the summer of 2016, the decline came to a stop. But then nothing happened for a bit. It just kind of oscillated around the 12.27% mark until, well, the 2019 election.

The month after the UCP got elected, Alberta hit a new low: 12.05%. And then it kept dropping, finally bottoming out in November 2020 at 11.51%. Since then, it’s been slowly rising, currently sitting at 11.71%, but it reached as high as 11.9%.

Between the election and the new low in November 2020, Alberta’s share of the national full-time jobs eroded at a rate of 0.028 points a month.

And if Alberta has a smaller share of the national full-time jobs, that means other provinces are seeing their share increase.

20122022Change
ON38.36%39.62%1.26
BC12.70%13.64%0.94
PEI0.42%0.44%0.02
MB3.54%3.40%-0.13
NS2.62%2.48%-0.14
NB2.13%1.95%-0.18
SK3.17%2.97%-0.20
NL1.44%1.21%-0.24
QC22.88%22.57%-0.32
AB12.74%11.71%-1.02

Sure enough, Ontario has seen an increase in their share of the nation’s full-time jobs, jumping 1.26 points over the last decade, from 38.36% to nearly 40%.

As well, BC increased their share from 12.70% to 13.64% during the same period, a bump of nearly a full percentage point.

And as you’ll notice, Alberta saw the largest decrease in full-time jobs share over the last decade. While 6 other provinces also saw decreases in their share of full-time jobs, Alberta’s loss was the largest.

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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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