How many oil & gas jobs have the UCP created?

It’s been nearly 4 years since the UCP got a kick at the can. How many new jobs have been created in an industry that’s seeing record oil production?

In March 2019, with less than a month before the provincial election in Alberta, Jason Kenney, the leader of the official opposition, sent out the following tweet.

That sign for “Jobs. Economy. Pipelines.” was present at many of his pressers during the campaign.

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And I was curious, nearly 4 years later and with the next provincial election just around the corner, how they’ve done. Specifically, I’m interested in seeing how oil and gas jobs have done while they’ve been in power.

I mean, Alberta has had record levels of oil production while they’ve been in power, so surely that means more oil jobs right?

Luckily, Statistics Canada tracks the number of jobs in each industry in each province, and I took a look at Alberta’s “forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas” sector. I’m going to colloquially refer to this as the “oil and gas sector, because “mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction” make up about 96% of the jobs in that sector.

Here’s what jobs in this sector looked each month between March 2019, the month before the UCP were elected, and December 2022, the most recent month we have data for.

What we see here is that right from the first month, Alberta was losing jobs in the oil and gas sector.

In fact, by February 2020, the month before the province implemented public health restrictions, which led to massive layoffs throughout the economy, Alberta had gone from 148,000 people working in oil and gas before the UCP won the election to 132,600.

That’s a loss of over 15,000 jobs.

And, of course, we lost another 11,000 by August, 6 months later.

After that, however, things started to pick up, and we sharply rose by the end of the year. And things kept going, albeit more gradually, until last May, when we topped out at 150,100. That’s up by 2,100 from 3 years prior, or about 700 new jobs per year.

However, it’s pretty much been downhill since then and oil and gas jobs now sit at their lowest level in nearly 2 years, when they were at 136,600 in April 2021.

Between March 2019, again, the last month the NDP were in office, and December 2022, the most recent month we have data for, we’ve gone from 148,000 oil and gas jobs to 138,300.

That’s a net loss of 9,700 jobs in the oil and gas sector.

Remember, that’s despite oil and gas companies in Alberta seeing record oil production. Which means they’ve found ways to get more oil out of the ground without needing as many workers.

But certainly they didn’t do as bad as Rachel Notley and the NDP, right? After all, weren’t the NDP responsible for the loss of 180,000 jobs overall while they were in power?

Well, let’s take a look.

There’s a familiar pattern here: gain power, jobs plummet, slow recovery, then another decline.

Alberta hit a recession in 2016, which explains the drop, similar to how the pandemic-fuelled economic downturn led to a decline in jobs under the UCP.

They managed to recover from it, but it took over two years. Although they never did manage to get all those jobs back. They went from 158,500 the month before they took office to a peak of 153,000 in September 2018, still short 5,500 jobs.

That being said, their peak of 153,000 was still higher than the peak the UCP saw of 150,100 last spring.

Using a similar metric as we did for the UCP, we see that between the month before the NDP were elected and the December of the last full year they were in office, oil and gas jobs dropped from 158,500 to 149,200, a decline of 9,300.

That’s technically less than the 9,700 lost under the UCP.

Over the next 4 months, however, Alberta lost an additional 2,500. I guess we’ll see whether the UCP can turn things around in the next four months.

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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.

7 replies on “How many oil & gas jobs have the UCP created?”

What you are not considering is the loss of oil & gas jobs due to Liberal & NDP bans on pipelines. Pipeliners accounted for a very large portion of the jobs in the oil & gas sector. You should be comparing to jobs Before 2015. Not only do pipelines create direct pipeline jobs but a large amount of support jobs in other sectors.

If that’s true, then why were production levels at an all-time high last year? Why was Alberta exporting more oil last year than at any point in history? And if there is a pipeline ban, why did the Trudeau government purchase TMX, and why did Coastal Gaslink begin construction in 2020, 5 years after the Liberals first formed government?

I’ve largely stopped sweating the UCP (while still assessing its actions, whether middling or abominable) ever since this concept gelled for me: Conservatives are skilled at getting elected, inept at governing.

Doesn’t this say, more than anything else, that oil and gas companies control how many jobs there are, and government has very little to do with it? The oil & gas companies are, as you say, producing more product with fewer workers. This increases their profits by cutting their expenses. No amount of government stimulus or inducements will make them change from this course. They maximize profits. It is what they exist to do. It’s a false argument that the UCP can make them hire more people. If they hand them big tax credits, they will pocket the money and continue doing what they are doing. Jobs lost to machines aren’t coming back. Albertans need to look outside the oil & gas box. The future prosperity of the province, the future of good paying jobs, isn’t there any more.

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