indicatorThe Owl

Ouch! April job numbers show impact of COVID-19

If we include Albertans who want to work but are not in the labour force, the unemployment rate would be 20.4 per cent.

By ATB Economics 8 May 2020 1 min read

It’s not a surprise, but it still hurts to see the spike in unemployment and the reduction in total hours worked by those still employed brought on by the effort to contain COVID-19.

Alberta’s unemployment rate rose from an already high 8.7 per cent in March to 13.4 per cent in April. It has not been this high since the current data series began in 1976. For comparison, the average rate over the last 24 months was 7.2 per cent.

The unemployment rate is, however, only part of the picture. 

Alberta’s labour force contracted by 6.2 per cent in April. Not including March, when it fell by 3.5 per cent, the next largest monthly decrease in the labour force was 1.0 per cent in October 1984. 

This means that the pandemic-related shutdowns have led many Albertans to drop out of the labour force altogether. The unemployment rate does not include “discouraged workers” who have stopped looking because they don’t think they will find a job.

If we include Albertans who want to work but are not in the labour force, the unemployment rate would be a whopping 20.4 per cent.

The total number of hours worked has also changed dramatically in April. Unadjusted for seasonality, the number of hours worked (main jobs only) in Alberta fell by 25.7 per cent in April compared to February. 

Alberta's unemployment rate spiked in April

Discouraged workers are those who have stopped looking for work because they don’t think they will find a job.


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