Alberta’s unemployment rate increases slightly in September

And that’s despite getting over 15,000 more retail jobs!

The federal government released their September 2021 job numbers earlier this month, and job numbers are up in Alberta for the third month in a row.

Yes, I know that might seem odd to say given that the title says the unemployment rate increased, so read on why we can have a higher unemployment rate yet more overall jobs.

The net increase to jobs between last month and August was 19,600.

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Alberta had seen job increases for 7 months in a row, since last May. During that time, it had seen 258,100 jobs “created”. We saw job losses last November and December, then gains for the first 3 months of 2021. With this new gain (and gains in July and August), the total jobs increase since the economy reopened last May is at 348,000. That means the increases in January through March—and now July through September—make up for the losses seen in November, December, April, May, and June.

Remember, however, that these 348,000 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 12,900 lost jobs that haven’t recovered.

Among workers 25 years of age and older, women workers saw the larger job increases, by far. There were 16,200 more women over 25 back at work last month compared to August. That number increases to 20,4000 if you include those who are 15–24 years old. On the other hand, 4,000 fewer men over 25 were employed in September over the previous month—but it jumps to 700 fewer men if you include the younger group.

In Alberta, 10 job sectors saw job gains for September (with wholesale and retail trade seeing the highest gains: 15,100).

Of the remaining sectors reported by Statistics Canada, 6 saw job losses in Alberta:

  • Construction (-5,100)
  • Accomodation and food services (-2,700)
  • Educational services (-2,400)
  • Manufacturing (-1,500)
  • Transportation and warehousing (-1,300)
  • Information, culture and recreation (-600)

Combined, these 6 industries lost 13,600 jobs.

Labour Force Survey in brief: Interactive app, Statistics Canada

Compared to a year ago, the industry with the highest job losses was “information, culture and recreation”. “Wholesale and retail trade” saw the largest increase over the last year.

Change% change
Wholesale and retail trade29,6009.4
Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas19,90015.9
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing19,10018.4
Educational services18,20012.0
Professional, scientific and technical services17,1009.8
Accommodation and food services13,50011.7
Transportation and warehousing13,20010.7
Health care and social assistance10,7003.7
Public administration9000.9
Other services (except public administration)-1,800-1.8
Business, building and other support services-2,300-3.2
Information, culture and recreation-10,600-13.0

The report shows that Alberta’s private sector grew by 9,700 between August and September, but there were 107,900 more private sector jobs than this time last year. Public sector jobs were up by 8,900 over August but higher than September 2020 by only 2,900. Self employed jobs were up by 1,100 over August and 600 lower than they were in September 2020.

Full-time jobs made up all of the job gains. Alberta gained 25,800 full-time jobs (seasonally adjusted) between August and September, yet they lost 6,100 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 2020 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 between January, May, July, August, and September this year, as well as the losses from the others months, that full-time deficit decreases to 35,300.

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 87,900.

That’s 3,381 full-time jobs lost every month since July 2019, on average.

Alberta’s unemployment rate was 8.1%, up 0.2 points since August. This is the seventh time during the pandemic that it’s been below 10%, but it’s still higher than the 7.2% it was at prior to the pandemic.

The participation rate increased to 69.7% compared to August. A higher participation rate means more people are looking for work, which could lead to a higher increase in unemployment, even if the number of jobs increases.

As far as how it compares with the rest of the country, Alberta’s unemployment rate is fourth highest (same as last month), being surpassed by 3 of the Atlantic provinces.

Canada saw an increase in employment last month, with national jobs going up by 157,000.

The national unemployment rate decreased to 6.9%, down from September’s 7.1% 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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