Alberta’s unemployment rate second highest in Canada

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 September 2020 job numbers yesterday, and for the fifth month in a row, job numbers are up in Alberta.

The net increase to jobs was 38,200. Compared to the increase of 28,200 in May, 91,600 in June, and 67,000 in July, and 9,700 in August, this is only the third largest increase since Alberta started reopening the economy. If we add all of them together, Alberta has seen 234,700 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 126,200 lost jobs that haven’t recovered. A little more than 1 in 3 of the jobs lost during the pandemic shutdown—35% actually—remains unfilled.

Among workers 25 years of age and older, women workers made up all of the job increases. Men over 25 actually saw a decrease of 1,800 (or 0.2%) compared to August. On the other hand, 31,500 more women over 25 were employed in September over the previous month, an increase of 3.6%.

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

  • Professional, scientific, and technical services (-5,000)
  • Business, building, and other support services (-1,600)
  • Health care and social assistance (-1,600)
  • Accommodation and food services (-1,500)
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 information, culture, and recreation saw the largest increase over the last year.

Sep 2019
Sep 2020
Accommodation and food services-23,300
Other services (except public administration)-15,300
Transportation and warehousing-9,100
Public administration-8,100
Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas-7,400
Business, building and other support services-7,100
Professional, scientific and technical services-4,500
Educational services-4,200
Wholesale and retail trade-3,400
Health care and social assistance800
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing4,700
Information, culture and recreation10,300

The report shows that Alberta’s private sector grew by 17,800 between August and September, but there were still 137,000 fewer private sector jobs than this time last year. Public sector jobs were up by 29,600 over August but lower than September 2019 by 3,700. Self employed jobs were down by 9,100 over August and 1,900 lower than they were in September 2019.

Full-time jobs made up 90.3% of the new jobs, up from August, when full-time jobs made up 84.5% 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, August, and September being the only months when we saw an increase in full-time jobs (72,000, 30,000, 8,200, and 34,500 respectively). Alberta lost 252,800 full-time jobs during the pandemic. The increases over the last four months brings the full-time job deficit to 108,100.

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 160,700.

That’s over 10,713 full-time jobs lost every month since last July, on average.

Alberta’s unemployment rate was 11.7%, down 0.1 points since August, the third drop since the pandemic began, bring the total drop to 3.8 points. The participation rate grew to 69.7% since August, which means more people are actually looking for work. That being said, the province’s unemployment rate is still significantly higher than the 7.2% it was prior to the pandemic. Plus, after Newfoundland and Labrador, it’s the highest in the country.

Canada also saw an increase in employment, with national jobs going up by 378,200, as restrictions continued to ease throughout the country. Combined with other increases during the latter part of the pandemic, employment is still 675,800 below pre-pandemic levels in the country. Jobs were up in nearly all provinces (except New Brunswick and PEI), but Ontario and Québec led the way.

The national unemployment rate dropped to 9% 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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