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Alberta’s jobless rate rising since July

Since July 2022, Alberta’s unemployment rate has been rising, having increased a full percentage point in the last 6 months. That’s the highest increase outside of Atlantic Canada.

While reviewing the unemployment data for Alberta recently, I noticed something interesting.

Here, take a look at this chart, which shows the unemployment rate for every month over the last year.

Unemployment since last July as been slowly trending upward, something that has largely gone unacknowledged by Alberta’s current government, which got into power by the promise of “Jobs. Economy. Pipeline.”

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Over the last 6 months, Alberta’s unemployment rate has increased a full percentage point, from 5.0% last summer to 6.0% last month.

Here’s how that rise compares to changes in unemployment rates among the other Canadian provinces.

Jul 2022Jan 2022Change
NS6.45.0-1.4
QC4.43.9-0.5
BC4.74.4-0.3
ON5.25.20.0
MB4.04.20.2
SK3.94.30.4
AB5.26.00.8
NB6.27.51.3
PEI6.07.71.7
NL9.811.82.0

Only 3 provinces—Nova Scotia, Québec, and British Columbia—saw their unemployment decrease over the last 6 months. As well, Ontario saw its unemployment rate remain the same.

All the remaining 6 provinces had their unemployment rates increase during the same period. Alberta had the fourth highest increase in its unemployment rate. And it had the largest increase in its unemployment rate outside of Atlantic Canada.

While I have you here, I thought I’d also show the change in the unemployment rate for all the provinces since last January.

Jan 2022Jan 2023Change
NL14.211.8-2.4
ON7.55.2-2.3
PEI9.87.7-2.1
NS6.85.0-1.8
SK5.64.3-1.3
QC5.13.9-1.2
NB8.67.5-1.1
AB6.86.0-0.8
BC5.14.4-0.7
MB4.84.2-0.6

Every province had a lower unemployment rate last month compared to the previous January. However, 7 provinces saw larger increases than Alberta did. Only BC and Manitoba performed worse than Alberta; although, they both still ended up with unemployment rates more than a percentage lower.

Finally, let’s look at how things look compared January 2019, the last January before the UCP won the provincial election.

Jan 2019Jan 2023Change
PEI10.07.7-2.3
NS7.15.0-2.1
MB5.74.2-1.5
QC5.23.9-1.3
SK5.44.3-1.1
NB8.47.5-0.9
AB6.66.0-0.6
ON5.65.2-0.4
BC4.74.4-0.3
NL11.811.80.0

Once again, everyone (except Newfoundland and Labrador) seems to be in a better position than they were 4 years ago. Once again, however, 6 provinces saw better drops in their unemployment rates since 2019. And of the 3 that Alberta beat out, 2 of them still have lower unemployment rates than Alberta rates do.

Having a higher unemployment isn’t good for workers.

Obviously, higher unemployment means more people without a job. But it also means more people competing for the job vacancies that are open. And as competition for jobs increases, so does the bargaining power of employers. They can use that competition as leverage in convincing applicants to accept their terms of employment. Conversely, it decreases bargaining power of workers, since employers won’t be desparate enough to need to accept any terms of employment the applicants suggest.

With the highest unemployment rate outside of Atlantic Canada and one that’s been increasing over the last 6 months, Alberta is becoming a province that’s friendlier to employers than it is to employees.

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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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