indicatorThe Owl

Pandemic adds to pre-existing job losses in key sectors

Construction jobs—which were still down from before the recession of 2015-16—were off by 13.8 per cent in May compared to February (-31,100).

By ATB Economics 8 June 2020 2 min read

Every major sub-sector of the Alberta economy lost jobs during the pandemic.

Almost 333,000 jobs disappeared between February 2020 before COVID-19 came to Alberta and May 2020 when the lockdown was in full swing. This represents 14.3 per cent of all jobs in the province. (The monthly numbers have been adjusted to account for regular seasonal variations.)

The accommodation and food services sub-sector lost the most jobs over this period in both absolute terms (-71,600 positions) and on a percentage basis (-45.7 per cent). May was, however, an improvement over April, with businesses adding 7,700 jobs back into the mix. We don’t have detailed enough data to say for sure, but the improvement in May was likely due in part to staff being rehired to assist with take-out and delivery options at restaurants and to prepare for the reopening of businesses later in May.

Wholesale and retail trade experienced the second largest absolute drop in employment between February and May, shedding 68,000 jobs or about a fifth (-20.1 per cent) of its workforce. As with accommodation and food services, wholesale and retail trade operations started to rebuild their staff levels in May with the number of employees up by 9,300 from the low point set in April. Anecdotally, some of uptick in positions may be due to the hiring of security personnel to assist with the maintenance of physical distancing.

Given the closure of dental, chiropractic, optometry, day care and many other services, employment in the health and social assistance sub-sector was down by 31,100 (-10.2 per cent) in May compared to February.

Construction jobs—which were still down from before the recession of 2015-16—were off by 13.8 per cent in May compared to February (-31,100). Another sub-sector sector that went into the pandemic still shaken from the recession of 2015-16 was oil and gas. The sector lost 7,000 jobs (-5.1 per cent) between February and May, adding to the almost 42,000 (-23.5 per cent) lost between February 2014 and February 2020.

The same is true for two other key goods-producing sub-sectors: manufacturing and agriculture. Going into the pandemic, jobs in primary agriculture were down by about 20 per cent (-12,300) compared to six years earlier and contracted by another 12.4 per cent (-6,200) between February and May. Manufacturing jobs were down by about 5 per cent (-7,100) from February 2014 and by another 12.0 per cent (-16,500) due to the pandemic.

All sub-sectors of the Alberta economy experienced job losses during the pandemic

Construction jobs were down by 31,100 in May compared to February

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