Alberta unemployment finally drops below 10%

This is the lowest Alberta’s unemployment rate has been during the pandemic. But it’s still significantly higher since before the pandemic.

The federal government released their February 2021 job numbers last week, and job numbers are up in Alberta for the second month in a row.

The net increase to jobs was 17,000. Alberta had seen job increases in 7 months in a row, since last May. During that time, it had seen 258,100 jobs “created”. We saw job losses in November and December, but with this new gain, the total jobs increase since the economy reopened last May is at 273,400. That means the increases in January and December make up for the losses seen in November and December.

Remember, however, that these 273,400 new jobs follow two months of record job losses. Between February and April last year, Alberta lost 360,900 jobs, which means that there are still 87,500 lost jobs that haven’t recovered. A little less than 1 in 3 of the jobs lost during the pandemic shutdown—28.5% actually—remains unfilled.

Among workers 25 years of age and older, men workers made up most of the job gains. There were 6,800 fewer men over 25 out of work last month compared to January. On the other hand, 4,400 fewer women over 25 were unemployed in January over the previous month.

In Alberta, 10 sectors saw some job gains for February (with accomodation and food services seeing the highest gains: 19,200; granted they’d lost 17,900 jobs in January, so it’s really a gain of fewer than 2,000). And 3 of those sectors gained fewer than 1000 jobs.

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

  • Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil, and gas (-3,900)
  • Public administration (-3,600)
  • Manufacturing (-3,300)
  • Construction (-2,200)
  • Professional, scientific, and technical services (-1,700)
  • Agriculture (-1,500)
  • Information, culture and recreation (-1,100)
  • Transportation and warehousing (-700)

Combined, these 8 industries lost 18,000 jobs.

Labour Force Survey in brief: Interactive app, Statistics Canada

Compared to a year ago, the industry with the highest job losses has been accommodation and food services, while finance, insurance, real estate, rental, leasing saw the largest increase over the last year.

This is the second month in a row where accommodation and food services saw a year-over-year decline. Despite seeing 17,000 more jobs last month than in February, compared to the same time last year, this sector is still short nearly 50,000 jobs.

Change% change
Accommodation and food services-48,400-31.7%
Information, culture and recreation-22,900-28.2%
Other services (except public administration)-7,400-6.9%
Public administration-4,300-4.1%
Professional, scientific and technical services-5,600-3.1%
Wholesale and retail trade3,5001.1%
Health care and social assistance7,5002.5%
Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas4,3003.3%
Transportation and warehousing4,7003.8%
Educational services6,4004.1%
Business, building and other support services5,5007.7%
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental, leasing8,8008.9%

The report shows that Alberta’s private sector grew by 24,700 between January and February, and there were 70,500 fewer private sector jobs than this time last year. Public sector jobs were down by 6,800 over January and higher than February 2020 by 5,600. Self employed jobs were down by 1,100 over January and 6,100 lower than they were in February 2020.

Full-time jobs made up most of the job gains. Alberta gained 14,600 full-time jobs (seasonally adjusted) between January and February, but gained 12,300 part-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).

Full-time numbers worsened dramatically during the pandemic, with June through October being the only months when we saw an increase in full-time jobs. Alberta lost 252,800 full-time jobs during the pandemic last year. The increases over those 5 months brought the full-time job deficit down to 95,300. If we add in the gains from January and February and the losses from November and December, that full-time deficit decreases to 160,100. Still not where we were in October, and nowhere close to where we were prior to the pandemic.

If we include all the full-time job numbers both before and during the shutdown, the total net number of full-time jobs lost since July 2019 are 212,700.

That’s 10,635 full-time jobs lost every month since July 2019, on average.

Alberta’s unemployment rate was 9.9%, down 0.8 points since November . This is the first time during the pandemic that it’s been below 10%, but it’s significantly higher than the 7.2% it was prior to the pandemic. The participation rate dropped slightly to 69.1% since December, which means fewer people are actually looking for work. Plus, after Newfoundland and Labrador, our unemployment rate is the highest in the country.

Canada saw an increase in employment last month, with national jobs going up by 259,000, more than wiping out the losses seen in January.

The national unemployment rate increased to 8.2%, down from January’s 9.4% but still higher than the pre-pandemic 5.6% the country saw in February 2020.

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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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