Despite more jobs, AB’s jobless rate is stagnant

Alberta has gained nearly 70,000 new jobs since May 2022. Despite all those new jobs, however, our unemployment rate is the same now as it was then.

The federal government released their May 2023 job numbers last week, and job numbers are up in Alberta.

The net increase to jobs between last month and April was 3,900.

Among workers 25 years of age and older, men workers saw the larger job increases between April and May. There were 6,900 more men over 25 back at work last month compared to April. That number drops to 1,200, however, if you include those who are 15–24 years old.

On the other hand, only 5,300 more women over 25 were employed in March over the previous month—but that decreases to 2,700 women if you include the younger group.

Statistics Canada provided no data on non-binary workers.

Here’s how Alberta’s new jobs compare to the other provinces:

Apr 2023May 2023Change% change

Alberta saw the second largest increase in total jobs among all provinces that saw increases. They had the third largest percentage decrease in new jobs, at 0.16%.

Manitoba saw the largest increase in new jobs, with over 8,200 more people working last month than in April. They also saw the largest percentage increase: nearly 1.2%.

In Alberta, 9 job sectors saw job gains for April (with construction seeing the highest gains: 9,500).

The other 7 remaining sectors reported by Statistics Canada saw job losses in Alberta:

  • Professional, scientific and technical services (-14,100)
  • Transportation and warehousing (-8,200)
  • Manufacturing (-3,600)
  • Business, building and other support services (-2,900)
  • Accomodation and food services (-1,600)
  • Public administration (-1,000)
  • Agriculture (-700)

Combined, these 9 industries lost 32,100 jobs.

Labour Force Survey in brief: Interactive app, Statistics Canada

Compared to a year ago, the industry with the highest job gains was “professional, scientific and technical services”. “Wholesale and retail trade” saw the largest decrease over the last year.

May 2022May 2023Change% change
Professional, scientific and technical services210,200241,60031,40014.94%
Health care and social assistance303,400320,20016,8005.54%
Transportation and warehousing129,500142,30012,8009.88%
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing122,800133,30010,5008.55%
Other services (except public administration)90,70099,0008,3009.15%
Public administration107,200111,2004,0003.73%
Information, culture and recreation82,00084,3002,3002.80%
Educational services174,000171,700-2,300-1.32%
Accommodation and food services131,300128,800-2,500-1.90%
Business, building and other support services73,40068,100-5,300-7.22%
Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas148,300131,600-16,700-11.26%
Wholesale and retail trade378,500361,400-17,100-4.52%

The report from Statistics Canada also shows that Alberta’s private sector grew by 23,300 between April and May. There were 77,200 more private-sector jobs than this time last year. Public sector jobs were up by 1,900 over April but higher than May 2022 by 4,300. Self employed jobs were down by 21,400 over April but down by 14,900 over May 2022.

Part-time jobs made up most of the job gains last month. Alberta gained 3,000 part-time jobs (seasonally adjusted) between April and May, and they gained 900 full-time jobs.

There were 4,800 fewer men full-time workers who gained jobs last month. By comparison, the number of women who worked full-time increased by 5,700 during the same period.

In June 2019, the month before the Job Creation Tax Cut came into effect, there were 1,886,700 people working full-time. Last month, there were 2,004,000. That means that there are 117,300 more full-time jobs than there were before the UCP cut the tax on corporate profits.

That being said, full-time jobs still make up a smaller percentage of total jobs now than they did before the Job Creation Tax Cut. In June 2019, full-time jobs made up 82.5% of all jobs in the province.

Last month, they were at 81.9%, which is the same as it was at in April. Never mind what it was back before the UCP cut the tax on corporations with more than half a million dollars in profits.

While we technically have more full-time jobs than we did 3 years ago, those jobs haven’t kept up with population growth, which means more people are working part-time jobs, relative to the number of people employed in Alberta.

Speaking of full-time jobs, wages for full-time workers decreased by 65¢, from an average of $36.94 an hour in April. This is the lowest the average wage for full-time workers has been since at this past January.

Part-time wages, on the other hand, increased, from $25.40 an hour in April to $25.87 in May, a record high. The average wage for both full-time and part-time jobs combined decreased to $34.63 an hour last month from $35.01 in April.

By industry, wages increased in only 5 of the 16 reported sectors.

Apr 2023May 2023Change
Transportation and warehousing$34.33$36.24$1.91
Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas$53.70$55.15$1.45
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing$36.06$36.87$0.81
Health care and social assistance$32.99$33.05$0.06
Information, culture and recreation$27.54$27.37-$0.17
Educational services$39.04$38.87-$0.17
Wholesale and retail trade$27.00$26.73-$0.27
Accommodation and food services$19.19$18.86-$0.33
Business, building and other support services$28.86$27.96-$0.90
Professional, scientific and technical services$43.98$42.98-$1.00
Other services (except public administration)$31.05$29.92-$1.13
Public administration$44.09$41.84-$2.25

When we compare wage growth of all the provinces over the previous month, Alberta saw the second worst performance in change of wages. Alberta also had the highest average hourly wage of all the provinces.

Apr 2023May 2023Change

In addition to the increase of 3,900 new jobs to its economy, Alberta saw its unemployment rate decrease to 5.7% last month, down from 5.9% in April.

That’s because Alberta’s labour force also decreased by 2,700, so, if you have 2,700 fewer people available to work than in March, as well as 3,900 more jobs, then it’s going to increase how much the unemployment rate drops by.

As far as how it compares with the rest of the country, Alberta’s unemployment rate was the fifth highest. Alberta’s unemployment rate was lower than just 4 other provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador (10.2%), Prince Edward Island (7.2%), New Brunswick (6.1%), and Nova Scotia (5.7%). Alberta’s neighbours—BC and Saskatchewan—are at 5.0% and 4.4%, respectively. Québec had the lowest unemployment rate, at 4.0%, nearly two full percentage points lower than Alberta’s.

As well, Alberta’s decrease of 0.2 points was the third largest decrease in unemployment in the country, behind just Nova Scotia (0.6) and Saskatchewan (0.4).

That being said, Alberta’s unemployment rate in May 2022 was also 5.7%, which means that with all the ups and downs in its unemployment rate over the last year, the percentage of the labour force in Alberta that remains without a job hasn’t really changed.

In May 2022, Alberta’s unemployment rate was 5.7%, unchanged from where we were a year later. There were 6 provinces that saw lower unemployment rates than what they had in May 2022. Newfoundland and Labrador actually saw the largest decrease, dropping 1.1 points from 6.8% to 5.7%. BC saw the largest increase, jumping from 4.3% to 5.0%.

Canada saw an decrease in employment last month, with jobs across the country fell up by 17,300, the bulk of which occurred in Ontario, which decreased by nearly 24,000. Manitoba saw the largest increase, gaining 8,200 jobs.

The national unemployment rate sat at 5.2%, up from 5.0% in April, and where it had sat in January, February, and March.

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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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