Fewest job-creating companies in AB since 2014

The number of Alberta companies employing workers has been decreasing since the middle of 2015.

Earlier this month, Statistics Canada released a new update on business counts in Canada. This data is updated every June and December, so this information was for December 2021.

The data is separated by businesses with employees and businesses without employees. Given the UCP’s 2019 campaign slogan of “Jobs. Economy. Pipelines.”, I was specifically interested in data over time for businesses with employees, so I decided to look at the data going back a decade.

Here’s what I found.

What we see is that over the past 10 years, Alberta saw a rise in businesses employing workers for the first a couple of years, and then seeing a decline ever since.

In December 2021, there were 170,266 businesses in Alberta that employed workers. That number was 157,885 10 years earlier, in December 2012. And 12,381 more businesses employing workers looks good, right?

Well, kind of. By the 2015 was halfway done, those businesses had climbed to 181,961, so the number of businesses had actually decreased by 11,695 over the next 6.5 years.

In fact, in December 2021, Alberta had the fewest number of businesses employing workers than it’s seen since 2014.

When we break it down by company size, we see that the largest percentages of lost businesses belongs to those that employed 500 workers or more.

Jun 2015Dec 2021Diff% diff

Companies employing 100 workers or higher accounted for over 43% of all company losses.

Now, let’s break it down by the % change for each half:

Here, we see that the largest decrease in the number of businesses employing workers occurred in the first half of 2017, while the NDP were in power. This drop came on the heels of 3 consecutive halves of larger and larger decreases.

The next two largest were in the last half of 2020 and the first half of 2021. That shouldn’t be that surprising, given that this coincided with the first year of the pandemic. The smallest decrease occurred in the last half of 2021, when Alberta lost only 0.06% of its businesses employing people.

All of the decreases have occurred during the NDP and UCP administrations. Not only that, but combined the 2 parties saw only 4 increases during the reporting period, none of which even passed the 1% mark.

Compare that with the PC party, which saw 4 increases above 1%—and one over 5%—before they lost to the NDP in 2015. And I’m giving them the first half of 2015, even though the NDP had been elected before June 2015.

If we look at the total number of losses for the two parties, here’s how it breaks down. Remember, the NDP were in power for 4 years, and the UCP, by December 2021, had been in power for only a little over 2.5 years.

Term startTerm endTotal lostYearly avg

Even though the UCP have been in power for less time than the NDP, they have seen a larger number of businesses close. And the stats are worse when we notice that the annual average is nearly double for the UCP than what it was for the NDP.

Of course, the UCP had to deal with the pandemic, but as the chart shows above, the number of businesses was already dropping during the first half of 2019, before the pandemic hit. And before you say it, oil prices were higher during that period than they were during the first two years of the NDP’s term, while they were battling their own recession.

Either way, it doesn’t seem like we’re returning to the 2015 numbers again for some time.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on politics and labour.

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