Alberta unemployment nearly 11% for first month of 2021

Alberta gained 21,000 jobs last month, but we have over 100,000 jobs still sitting unfilled since the pandemic began.

The federal government released their January 2021 job numbers yesterday, and job numbers are up in Alberta for the first time since October.

The net increase to jobs was 21,000. 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 256,400. So, these new job numbers don’t quite make up for the previous two months of losses.

Remember, however, that these 256,400 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 104,500 lost jobs that haven’t recovered. A little less than 1 in 3 of the jobs lost during the pandemic shutdown—28.96% actually—remains unfilled.

Among workers 25 years of age and older, men workers made up most of the job gains. There were 7,900 more men over 25 out of work last month compared to December. On the other hand, 1,800 more women over 25 were unemployed in January over the previous month, an increase of 0.1%.

In Alberta, 10 sectors saw some job gains for January (with construction seeing the highest gains: 15,300; granted they’d lost 10,500 jobs in December). And 1 of those sectors gained fewer than 1000 jobs.

The remaining 6 sectors reported by Statistics Canada saw job losses in Alberta:

  • Accommodation and food services (-17,900)
  • Information, culture and recreation (-3,700)
  • Manufacturing (-3,100)
  • Finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing (-1,500)
  • Other services (-700)
  • Public administration (-100)

Combined, these 6 industries lost 27,000 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 health care and social assistance saw the largest increase over the last year.

Change% change
Accommodation, food services-68,600-44.6%
Information, culture, recreation-18,100-23.4%
Professional, scientific, technical services-7,700-4.2%
Other services (except public administration)-3,600-3.6%
Public administration-700-0.7%
Business, building, other support services1,7002.4%
Educational services2,5001.6%
Wholesale and retail trade4,5001.4%
Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil, gas 4,7003.5%
Transportation and warehousing5,5004.4%
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental, leasing6,5006.5%
Health care and social assistance12,1004.1%

The report shows that Alberta’s private sector grew by 5,800 between December and January, and there were 83,300 fewer private sector jobs than this time last year. Public sector jobs were up by 1,000 over December and higher than January 2020 by 10,300. Self employed jobs were up by 14,000 over December and 6,600 lower than they were in January 2020.

Full-time jobs made up most of the job gains. Alberta gained 5,900 full-time jobs (seasonally adjusted) between December and January, but gained 3,200 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 Jun, July, August, September, and October being the only months when we saw an increase in full-time jobs (72,000, 30,000, 8,200, 34,500, and 12,800 respectively). Alberta lost 252,800 full-time jobs during the pandemic. The increases over those 5 months brought the full-time job deficit down to 95,300. If we add in this month’s gain and the losses from November and December, that full-time deficit decreases to 174,700. 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 227,300.

That’s 11,963 full-time jobs lost every month since July 2019, on average.

Alberta’s unemployment rate was 10.7%, down 0.4 points since November and significantly higher than the 7.2% it was prior to the pandemic. The participation rate rose slightly to 69.3% since December, which means more people are actually looking for work. Plus, after Newfoundland and Labrador, our unemployment rate is the highest in the country.

Canada saw a decrease in employment last month, with national jobs going down by 213,000. This was the second decline in jobs nationally since April and the lowest employment levels since August.

The national unemployment rate increased to 9.4%, up from December’s 8.6%, November’s 8.5%, October’s 8.9%, and September’s 9.0%, but down from August’s 10.2%, July’s 10.9%, June’s 12.3%, and May’s record 13.7%. It’s still higher than the pre-pandemic 5.6% the country saw in February.

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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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