Alberta’s oil & gas sector lost thousands of jobs in August

Alberta gained 9,700 jobs last month—it’s smallest increase since the pandemic began—but the forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas sector lost 9,100.

The federal government released their August 2020 job numbers yesterday, and for the fourth month in a row, job numbers are up in Alberta.

The net increase to jobs was 9,700. Compared to the increase of 28,200 in May, 91,600 in June, and 67,000 in July, this is, by far, the smallest since Alberta started reopening the economy. If we add all of them together, Alberta has seen 196,500 jobs “created” over the last four months.

Remember, however, that this follows two months of record job losses. Between February and April, Alberta lost 360,900 jobs, which means that there are still 165,400 lost jobs that haven’t recovered. Nearly half of the jobs lost during the pandemic shutdown—46% actually—remain unfilled.

Among workers 25 years of age and older, women workers made up 75% of the job increases. Men over 25 saw an increase of 2,700 (or 0.3%) compared to July. On the other hand, 8,100 more women over 25 were employed in August over the previous month, an increase of 0.9%.

Most sectors saw some job gains in Alberta for August. In fact, of the sectors reported by Statistics Canada, only 4 saw job losses in Alberta:

  • Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas (-9,100)
  • Finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing (-7,600)
  • Public administration (-4,100)
  • Agriculture (-1,300)
Labour Force Survey in brief: Interactive app, Statistics Canada

The report shows that Alberta’s private sector grew by 11,200 between July and August, but there were still 154,300 fewer private sector jobs than this time last year. Public sector jobs were down by 800 over July but lower than August 2019 by 30,800. Self employed jobs were also down by 800 over July but 8,100 higher than they were in July 2019.

Full-time jobs made up 84.5% of the new jobs, up from July, when full-time jobs made up 45% of the increase.

Between July 2019—when Jason Kenney introduced his so-called Job Creation Tax Cut—and Feburary 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, and August being the only months when we saw an increase in full-time jobs (72,000, 30,000, and 8,200, respectively). Alberta lost 252,800 full-time jobs during the pandemic. The increases over the last three months brings the full-time job deficit to 142,600.

If we include all the full-time job numbers both before and during the shutdown, the total number of full-time jobs lost since July 2019 are 195,200.

That’s over 13,943 full-time jobs lost every month since last July, on average. It’s over 4,000 full-time jobs lost per month if we ignore all the pandemic job losses.

Alberta’s unemployment rate was 11.8%, down 1 point since July, the second drop since the pandemic began, bring the total drop to 3.7 points. The participation rate fell to 68.6% since from July, which means fewer people are actually looking for work. And since the unemployment rate measures the number of people looking for work who aren’t employed, a drop in those looking for work will lower the unemployment rate. That being said, the province’s unemployment rate is still significantly higher than the 7.2% it was prior to the pandemic.

Canada also saw an increase in employment, with national jobs going up by 246,000, as restrictions continued to ease throughout the country. Combined with other increases during the latter part of the pandemic, employment is now within 1.054 million of pre-pandemic levels in the country. Jobs were up in nearly all provinces, but Newfoundland and Labrador led the way, with Alberta and PEI being tied with having the second largest drop in their unemployment rate.

The national unemployment rate dropped to 10.2% down from 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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