indicatorThe Owl

Alberta’s labour market heading into the storm

Already high in February at 7.2 per cent, Alberta’s unemployment rate will almost certainly rise over the short-term.

By ATB Economics 12 March 2020 1 min read

Alberta’s economic situation has changed a lot in the last week. While we don’t know the full extent of the damage COVID-19 and the oil price war will cause, there is no doubt that jobs are on the line. 

Already high in February at 7.2 per cent, Alberta’s unemployment rate will almost certainly rise over the short-term.

Hiring in the oil patch will, for example, be on hold in the face of the price war and at least some layoffs are a likely scenario. The same is true for sectors that rely on tourists and large gatherings of people as efforts to contain the pandemic lead to fewer visitors and cancelled events.

Unfortunately, our labour market is not in the best shape as we head into this economic storm with 2020 meant to be a year of recovery.

The number of jobs in the province was down 0.1 per cent in February compared to a year earlier. Oil and gas jobs were down by 10.7 per cent over the same period and by a whopping 25.9 per cent from their pre-recession peak. 

The looming slowdown will also take a large bite out of jobs in other sectors that were already behind where they were last year, including construction (-4.6 per cent), transportation and warehousing (-4.9 per cent), business, building and other support services (-17.6 per cent) and manufacturing (-0.3 per cent).

Despite a slow year in terms of sales, the wholesale and retail sector did manage to add jobs, with employment up by 1.0 per cent on a year-over-year basis in February. Accommodation and food services had strong employment growth over this period (+7.9 per cent) as did the information, culture and recreation sector (+10.3 per cent). 

These three sectors are likely to be hit quite hard by COVID-19 disruptions. And even if the job losses are temporary, they will be painful.

The number of jobs in the province was down 0.1 per cent in February compared to a year earlier.

The number of jobs in the province was down 0.1 per cent in February compared to a year earlier.


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