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Unemployment rates by region: Part two

Unemployment rates by region: Part two

Posted on: 8/15/2017 | Author: ATB Financial's Economics + Research Team

Yesterday, The Owl explored joblessness in Calgary and Edmonton. The two cities each have 8.5 per cent unemployment, above the provincial average. Fortunately, the job market in some of Alberta’s smaller cities is showing more encouraging results.

The chart below shows the unemployment rates for the regions of Lethbridge-Medicine Hat, Red Deer and Wood Buffalo. All three are now currently below the province-wide rate of 7.8 per cent, and the downward trend in the jobless rate is gaining momentum.

The Lethbridge-Medicine Hat region enjoyed the lowest unemployment rate throughout the recession, and even at its highest it never rose above 7.6 per cent. The far south of the province was mostly unaffected by the oil price downturn (although Medicine Hat is affected by natural gas prices). Lethbridge is particularly immune to the energy sector, relying more on agriculture, light manufacturing and government and educational services.

Red Deer—a hub of oilfield services and energy-related manufacturing—saw double-digit unemployment rates last summer. But now the jobless rate in Red Deer has plunged to 5.8 per cent. A similar story is playing out in Wood Buffalo. After suffering some of the highest rates in the country, Fort McMurray’s jobless rate is now 7.4 per cent—well below the provincial average.

How does one explain the falling unemployment rates in Red Deer and Fort McMurray? Part of it is that oil sector jobs are gradually returning—although employees may find their paycheques a bit thinner than they were prior to the downturn. Wages in Alberta’s resource sector are down nine per cent from their previous high.

Unemployment rate by region, graph

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