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(Mostly) on track

Employment growth by industry in Alberta

By Rob Roach, ATB Economics 12 March 2024 1 min read

Yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration that the global COVID-19 outbreak was a pandemic.

Just as the COVID-19 virus and its variants are still around, so too are some of the negative economic impacts of the pandemic.

Between February 2020 (the month before the pandemic was officially declared) and April 2020 (when job losses peaked), employment in Alberta was down by 338,500 (15%).

Things were better a year later in February 2021, but employment was still down by 4% (80,400) from the pre-pandemic level.

Fast forward to February 2024, and total employment in Alberta is a solid 10% (234,000) higher than before the disruptive effects of the pandemic. Nationally, employment in February 2024 was 6% (1,230,000) higher than just before the pandemic.

Within Alberta’s 10% increase, there is a wide variation across industries.

There are three industries in which employment levels were still below where they were just before COVID.

Primary agriculture was 36% (19,600 jobs) below where things stood in February 2020 followed by accommodation and food services at -6% (9,200 jobs) and utilities at -2% (400 jobs).

Although in positive territory, three other sectors were only slightly above their pre-pandemic levels: manufacturing employment was 2.9% (4,000 jobs) higher in February 2024 than February 2020; information and culture employment was 2.9% (2,300) higher; and other services was 2.2% (2,200) higher.

Sectors that have seen particularly strong growth since February 2020 include professional, scientific and technical services at +32% (57,600 jobs); business, building and other support services at +32% (20,700) and finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing at +20.5% (22,800).

Of course, there are factors other than the pandemic in play that may be driving the numbers by industry, such as the aging of the workforce  and long-term shifts in productivity (as in the case of agriculture, where employment has been trending lower for several decades).

Finally, industry employment can vary widely month-to-month, in part due to small survey size, so it’s always good to interpret monthly comparisons with some caution.

Answer to the previous trivia question: At $375 million, nickel was Alberta’s largest export (by dollar value) to the Netherlands last year.

Today’s trivia question: What proportion of jobs in Alberta are in the goods-producing sector?

Employment growth in Alberta has been uneven across industries

Employment growth in Alberta has been uneven across industries

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