Correcting AB’s jobs minister on Dec’s job numbers

Brian Jean recently touted how amazing Alberta’s labour market, but he left out a few details, making things seem much rosier than they actually are.

Alberta’s jobs minister, Brian Jean, recently published an update regarding December’s labour market update from Statistics Canada.

Naturally, he wants to paint the province in the most positive picture possible, which is probably why he didn’t publish an update last month for November’s job numbers, when Alberta lost 15,000 jobs, including 10,000 full-time jobs.

So, I thought I’d fill in a few of the details that he conveniently left out of his rhetoric, giving Albertans a fuller picture of the labour market in the province.

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Most of the statement is fluff, so I’m going to focus on the second paragraph, which is where the cherrypicked facts reside:

December’s numbers are proof that our economy is thriving and resilient thanks to our strong economic and fiscal policies and the actions we are taking to attract investment. In a single month, Alberta has gained more than 41,000 new full-time jobs, and almost 94,000 full-time jobs in 2022. Most of this job growth comes from the private sector, with major gains in construction, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, technology, business and health care. Over the past year, Alberta has contributed almost a quarter of Canada’s total employment growth.

There are two things wrong with the first sentence.

First, if December’s job numbers are proof that the economy is thriving and resilient, then what do the November job numbers mean, which I outlined above?

Is the loss of 10,000 full-time jobs in November proof that the economy isn’t thriving and resilient?

Or is the fact that Alberta gained 6,900 jobs in October, lost 15,000 in November, and gained 24,500 last month proof that Alberta’s economy is just volatile?

Second, even if it’s true that the job numbers for just one month indicated that Alberta’s economy is thriving and resilient, it’s not proof that this resiliency is a result of policies of the UCP government. The data just says what is, not how what is came to be.

While it may be true (and I don’t think it is) that UCP policies have made the economy thriving and resilient, the Statistics Canada data doesn’t show this.

In the second sentence, Jean claims that Alberta “gained more than 41,000 new full-time jobs and almost 94,000 full-time jobs in 2022”.

This is true. Alberta saw 41,200 new full-time jobs in December, as well as a net increase of 98,900 full-time jobs since the previous December.

What he forgets to mention is that despite this increase of nearly 100,000 full-time jobs last year, Alberta doesn’t have a larger percentage of full-time jobs.

I mean, sure full-time jobs accounted for 82.14% of all jobs last month, compared to 81.23% in December 2021, but in June 2019, the last month before this government implemented their co-called Job Creation Tax Cut, they made up 82.5%.

So, while full-time jobs are up, they’re still below where they were over 3.5 years ago. Any new full-time jobs have been swallowed up by increases to the labour force, through population growth, people turning 15, students graduating from postsecondary, and so on.

In reality, there have been an increase in part-time jobs, relative to the number of people looking for work, not full-time jobs.

He then rounds out the paragraph by saying that “Alberta has contributed almost a quarter of Canada’s total employment growth”, which he followed up 4 days later with this tweet.

It’s true. We did account for 22.5% of all jobs created in Canada last year; although, I, personally, would argue that this is closer to one fifth than it is to one quarter.

Even so, there’s something he’s not telling us that explains why we saw such high job numbers last year.

Dec 2021Dec 2022Change

Sure enough, there it is. Alberta had the second highest increase in new jobs last year, behind only Ontario and despite having only the fourth largest population.

But watch what happens when we compare December 2022’s job numbers to December 2018, the last December before the UCP took power.

Dec 2018Dec 2022Change

Alberta, once again, saw a large increase in total jobs. However, did you notice that it dropped from second place to fourth place? In fact, the top four provinces are in order of population size.

Ontario has the largest population and had the largest jobs increase. Québec was second for both, BC was third, and Alberta rounded out the pack.

If Alberta has the fourth largest population, then coming in fourth place for jobs increases shouldn’t be that surprising.

So, what gives? Why did Alberta see a gain of 88,800 new jobs over the last year but only 25,600 over the previous 3 years?

Well, check out this table, which shows the change in jobs by province for each December since 2018, relative to what the numbers were in 2018.

2018 vs 20192018 vs 20202018 vs 20212018 vs 2022

For example, between 2018 and 2019, the first year the UCP were in power, 7 other provinces saw more gains in jobs than Alberta.

By the end of 2020, Alberta saw the largest loss in job numbers since 2018 of any other province. And while their numbers started to climb in 2021, those numbers paled in comparison to what Ontario, Québec, and BC saw. Plus, they didn’t even account for a quarter of the jobs lost between 2018 and 2020.

Only two other provinces had worse recoveries from the pandemic-fuelled recession than Alberta had.

So, while it’s cool and all that Alberta saw 88,800 new jobs last year, they were playing catch up from the huge loss seen during the UCP’s first year and a half in power.

And no one would say that a cyclist going from fourth place to last place and back to fourth place was winning the race.

Not only that, but despite all these new jobs, Alberta still has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the country, behind just Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

In fact, there hasn’t been a single December since the UCP have been in charge, where any other province outside of Atlantic Canada had an unemployment rate higher than Alberta’s.

So, I’m not sure how Jean thinks “Alberta continues to set the standard for employment in our nation,” as he stated in his opening sentence of his statement.

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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.

2 replies on “Correcting AB’s jobs minister on Dec’s job numbers”

Thank you for providing much needed context to, and cutting through the spin contained in, Minister Jean’s update.

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