Earlier this month, I published a story on the November employment stats for Alberta.
I was reflecting on how the pandemic has skewed the numbers, as far as being able to attribute the economy (good or bad) to the political efforts of the UCP, the government currently in power in Alberta.
So, I decided to comb through the data leading up to the pandemic. Since the pandemic shut everything down in March 2020, I decided to use a dataset that ended with February 2020, and chose February 2019 as the starting point, just because I think a year seems useful.
Keep in mind that the NDP were in power in February, March, and most of April. As well, the current government didn’t pass any bills until July, so no UCP policies would’ve influenced the economy prior to July (at the very least). I will indicate the first 5 months of the reporting period in my charts with orange and the others in blue, to differentiate the months under the respective governments.
First, let’s start with overall job numbers.
The number of people employed during this period ranged from 2,318,400 in January 2020 to 2,354,700 in June 2019. The lowest point in the data occurred during the UCP portion of the period, and the highest during the NDP’s. The difference between those two months is 36,300 jobs.
Now, keep in mind that there weren’t 2,354,700 jobs created in June 2019, the highest data point.
For example, the dataset begins at 2,331,500, which means that there were 23,200 more jobs in June 2019 than there were at the start of the reporting period.
Likewise, the dataset didn’t end with January 2019, when jobs bottomed out at 2,318,400. The next month, the end of the reporting period, jobs were at 2,329,900, about 11,500 more than the lowest point in the period. The last month of the period also saw 24,800 fewer jobs than during the highest month and 1,600 fewer jobs than the first month.
As well, note that the opening month isn’t the highest month under the NDP. In fact, of the 4 remaining months of the NDP portion, 3 had higher numbers than the opening month. There was a loss of 300 jobs in the second month, but the 3 remaining months were, respectively, 19,800, 15,500, and 23,200 higher than the opening month. The NDP’s final month had the highest total jobs of any of the 13 months in the period.
Which brings me to my next chart.
So even though June 2019 had the highest total job numbers, the jump between May and June wasn’t the biggest. April 2019 was.
During this reporting period, there were 7 months with net gains (3 under the NDP and 4 under the UCP) and 6 months of net losses (2 under the NDP, and 4 under the UCP. As already mentioned, the largest jump was in June 2019, which saw nearly 20,000 new jobs. The largest drop was in January 2020, which lost 19,000 jobs.
Ultimately, however, as I already pointed out, this reporting period ended up with 1,600 fewer jobs than it started with. So, Alberta wasn’t any better off the month before the pandemic than they were at the same point in the previous year.
And if you look at just the months after the UCP started passing legislation (including their so-called Job Creation Tax Cut), the job numbers look even worse.
Under the UCP, Alberta saw 4 months of net job gains and 4 months of net losses leading up to the pandemic. In fact, the UCP portion of the reporting period started out with a job loss—-12,700—the third lowest drop in the period.
The UCP saw their biggest jump in February 2020, but the 11,500 new jobs wasn’t enough to mitigate the losses from the previous July. Remember, however, that the lowest month was January, when the province lost 19,000 jobs.
If we add up all the losses and all the gains, we get a net loss of 24,800 jobs during the UCP’s first 8 months. And, again, that’s before the pandemic hit.
Which brings me to my next point.
Jobs by tenure
So, while there were 24,800 net jobs lost since the UCP started passing legislation that could affect the economy, we have to remember that these include both full-time and part-time jobs.
Let’s separate those:
First, let’s look at the start and end totals for the reporting period. Full-time jobs were at 1,871,400 in February 2019 and 1,859,300 in February 2020. For part-time, it was 436,300 and 444,600. In other words, we had 12,100 fewer full-time jobs and 8,300 more part-time jobs in February 2020 than we did the year before.
Now, that’s not to say we had a net loss of 12,100 full-time jobs and a net gain of 8,300 part-time jobs. To calculate that, we’d need to look at the last month compared to the month with the most jobs in those tenure categories.
For example, part-time jobs had the highest numbers last December, when there were 460,400 part-time workers. Since that number is higher than February 2020, we’d subtract the lower month from the higher month. In other words, we actually saw a net loss of part-time jobs during the year leading up the pandemic: 15,800 fewer to be more specific.
With full-time jobs, the highest month was June 2019, the final month before the UCP implemented the Job Creation Tax Cut. In that month, v people were in full-time positions. In the final month of the reporting period, there were 1,859,300 people working full-time. That’s net loss of 131,100 full-time jobs during the year leading up to the pandemic.
So, to be clear, between February 2019 and February 2020, Alberta lost 131,100 full-time jobs and 15,800 part-time jobs. And again, that’s before the coronavirus lockdown in March and April of this year.
Now, let’s quickly at the change in jobs for each month.
What we see is that in the 5 months prior to the UCP implementing the Job Creation Tax Cut, full-time jobs increased every one of those months. Part-time jobs, on the other hand, increased in 3 of those 5 months. There were only 2 months of decreases in jobs prior to the tax cut, and both of them saw a loss of just part-time jobs.
In the 8 months after the Job Creation Tax Cut came into effect, there were 3 months of increases for full-time jobs and 4 months of increases for part-time jobs. For decreases, there were 5 months for full-time and 4 for part-time.
The month with the highest increase in full-time jobs was prior to the tax cut, and the month with the highest increase of part-time jobs was after the tax-cut.
The month with the greatest decrease in full-time jobs was after the tax cut, and the month with the greatest decrease in part-time jobs was before the tax cut.
Intriguingly, the month with the highest increase in full-time jobs happens to be the same month that saw the sharpest decline in part-time jobs. June 2019 saw a loss of 30,500 part-time jobs and an increase of 51,700 full-time jobs.
Jobs by sectors
Now let’s look at jobs for public sector, private sector, and self-employed workers.
Here are what the 3 sectors look like in February 2019 and February 2020, the month before the lockdown began:
|Feb 2019||Feb 2020||Change|
What we see is a difference of 9,200 fewer public sector jobs, 2,900 more private sector jobs, and 4,700 more self-employed jobs in February 2020, compared to February 2019.
If we compare February 2020 to the highest month in each of those 3 sectors, we get this:
During the year leading up to the pandemic lockdown, there was a net loss in all 3 sectors: 9,200 fewer public sector jobs, 30,100 fewer private sector jobs, and 3,000 fewer self-employed jobs.
And here are the monthly changes for each sector:
The months with the highest increases were February 2019 for public sector, February 2020 for private, and January 2020 for self-employed. Public sector jobs increased more prior to the tax cut, and the other two sectors increased more after the tax cut.
The months with the greatest decreases were October 2019 for public, January 2020 for private, and June 2019 for self-employed.
Public sector jobs saw their largest increase prior to the Job Creation Tax Cut and their largest decrease after the cut. Both the largest increase and decrease for the private sector happened after the tax cut (actually one right after the other). The largest increase for self-employed was after the tax cut and its decrease before the tax cut.
For public sector jobs, there were 8 months of job increases (4 before and 4 after the tax cut) and 5 months of decreases (1 before, 4 after). Private sector jobs saw 7 increases (3 before, 4 after) and 6 decreases (2 before, 4 after). Self-employed saw 7 increases (1 before, 6 after) and 6 decreases (4 before, 2 after).
Finally, here is the net change for all 3 sectors before and after the tax cut:
For the year prior to the economic lockdown this spring, Alberta saw a net change of 19,400 more public sector jobs before the tax cut and 19,000 fewer after it. Private sector jobs had a net increase of 19,500 before the cut but a net decrease of 22,400 after it. Self-employed jobs worked in reverse, with a net decrease of 12,100 before the tax cut and a net increase of 16,600 after.
So, did the Job Creation Tax Cut create jobs?
Well, to make an already long story short: no.
And remember, this is before we shut everything down. The UCP can’t use the pandemic to explain these losses away.