Alberta unemployment rate shrinks, but it's not all good news

·2 min read
Pedestrians walk by a 'hiring' sign April 11, 2022. New figures released by Statistics Canada Friday show that in Alberta, employment increased by 15,900 in April. (Alex Lupul/CBC - image credit)
Pedestrians walk by a 'hiring' sign April 11, 2022. New figures released by Statistics Canada Friday show that in Alberta, employment increased by 15,900 in April. (Alex Lupul/CBC - image credit)

Alberta added nearly 16,000 jobs in April — sending the province's unemployment rate to its lowest level since 2015.

New figures released by Statistics Canada Friday show that in Alberta, employment increased by 15,900 in April, while the unemployment rate dropped 0.6 percentage points to 5.9 per cent.

"It's still a labour market that's very healthy, but we're probably done most of the easy gains that are mainly coming from normalisation post-pandemic," said Charles St-Arnaud, chief economist at Alberta Central, trade association for the province's credit unions.

Unemployment is the lowest it's been in seven years, he added.

Over the past few months a lot of those jobs gains were linked to the service sector, he said, with increases in food and accommodation industries, and transportation.

There have been some setbacks in the manufacturing sector — every goods-producing industry saw a small decline in April, with the exception of agriculture, he said.

Those losses are "nothing that is concerning yet," but something St-Arnaud said he will be watching in coming months.

Long-term unemployment in Alberta

Despite a shrinking unemployment rate, it's not all good news in terms of jobs in the province, according to Trevor Tombe, a professor of economics at the University of Calgary.

Looking at the data, he said about one in three unemployed Albertans have been unemployed for more than six months straight.

"That's a much higher share than we see in any other province. And so we do have this unique challenge of having a lot of long-term unemployed workers," Tombe said.

He said this data may point to there being particular challenges for some unemployed workers looking to shift into other occupations or sectors.

"Workers displaced from oil and gas in particular, especially in support roles and especially during the recession, were disproportionately younger, lower education, individuals that might have a tougher time finding work in other sectors," he said.

National interest rates

Nationally, employment rates were little changed in April after two consecutive months of growth. The unemployment rate edged down 0.1 percentage points to 5.2 per cent, according to Statistics Canada data.

St-Arnaud said even as more people are employed, high inflation rates are increasing wage pressure.

"It's already a big concern for the Bank of Canada. So with all of those factors, it just supports that."

He said the Bank of Canada will need to continue to increase interest rates aggressively this year to control inflation.

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