Did students cause AB to lose 63K jobs in Sept?

Alberta lost nearly 63,000 jobs last month. Some people claim that students going back to school were responsible for that. But what does the data say?

Earlier this month, I published a story highlighting Statistics Canada’s most recent labour force report, which showed that Alberta lost roughly 63,000 full-time jobs in September.

This was the second largest decrease in full-time jobs since the UCP won the 2019 provincial election and the largest increase since April 2020, when tens of thousands of workers lost their jobs at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After publishing my story, I noticed quite a few people on social media claiming that this loss was a result of students going back to school.

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I was curious about this claim, so I decided to take a look at the data to see if students are to blame for the huge drop in full-time jobs.

First, let’s look at full-time jobs for every September, going back to 2018, the last September under the NDP.


And in graph form.

If students going back to school in September causes a huge drop in full-time jobs, then we should see a drop every September. Instead, however, we see that half of the Septembers over the last 6 years saw increases, and two of those were 5-digit increases.

As well, the other two Septembers that saw decreases were around the 12,000 mark. Last month’s loss of nearly 63,000 jobs was more than 5 times that amount.

Based on the change in full-time jobs overall each September, it doesn’t seem as though students going back to school has an effect, or if it does, the effect is either negligible or inconsistent. Either way, it’s not something that can be proved by this data.

What if we narrow the dataset though? Statistics Canada doesn’t have a “student” category in their labour force, so the next best thing is checking the younger cohort of workers between the ages of 15 and 24, recognizing that not everyone in the age rage goes to school come September and not everyone who goes to school falls into this age range.

Here’s the September unemployment rate for workers 15–24 years old since 2018.


And in graph form.

The unemployment rate for this cohort is definitely higher than for the general population in September, but it’s not consistent.

Ignoring September 2020, which was driven primarily by public health restrictions during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we see that last month’s unemployment rate was the second highest over the last 6 years.

Last month’s unemployment for this cohort was nearly 3 points higher than the lowest September, which was only last year, and more than full percentage point higher than in 2021.

If students were driving the loss in jobs, we’d expect to find a bit more consistency in this number each September.

But there’s one more stat I want to show you. Take a look at the unemployment rate for 15–24 year olds over the last year.

I already showed you that the unemployment rate for workers between 15 and 24 years old was higher in September 2023 than it was the previous September, by nearly 3 full percentage points.

However, not only was September 2022’s unemployment rate for this cohort smaller than it was last month, it was smaller than the unemployment rate of the last 6 months in a row!

The unemployment rate for youth when they were supposedly going back to school last September was lower than when they were supposedly working this summer. Like, their unemployment rate last September was a full two percentage points lower than it was just this past July and more than a full percentage point lower than August’s.

If students were driving the jump in the jobless rate last month, then we should see this duplicated every September, when students go back to school.

And yet, proportionately speaking, more young people were unemployed this summer than those who were unemployed in September 2022.

Either a lot more students went back to school last month than the year before, or something else is driving these job losses.

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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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