indicatorThe Owl

Job losses not contained to specific subsectors

Almost every nook and cranny of the Alberta economy shed jobs during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown

By ATB Economics 26 June 2020 1 min read

Looking at the over 200 hundred subsectors for which the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours provides usable Alberta job numbers, almost every nook and cranny of our economy shed jobs during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown. This stands in marked contrast to what happened during the recession of 2015-16 when jobs were lost in some sectors, but were added in others.

The SEPH is not as timely as the Labour Force Survey, but it provides more detail by subsector.

The SEPH results for April show an overall drop in the number of payroll employees* in Alberta of 16.0 per cent compared to February. This works out to a loss of about 317,000 jobs. The closure of non-essential businesses, travel restrictions, physical distancing measures, and the oil price crash explain the sudden plunge in employment.

With over 72,000 positions cut between February and March, job losses in the accommodation and food services subsector account for 22.8 per cent of the total drop in employment in the province.

Retail trade lost 42,000 positions over the same period or 13.3 per cent of the total drop followed by health care and social assistance (-31,100), construction (-29,100), and arts, entertainment and recreation (-19,712).

Despite the oil price crash, payroll employment in the oil and gas extraction subsector was up by about 600 positions in April versus February, but this is within the margin of error and, in any case, is overshadowed by the fact that the number of jobs in the oil and gas support services subsector (e.g. drilling rigs) was down by almost 10,000.

Hopefully this won’t happen, but we might start to see a decline in the number of jobs in the oil and gas extraction subsector itself as companies unable to weather the storm are forced to close or if the recovery of the global oil industry is derailed by another price war.

One of the handful of subsectors that did manage to add jobs was the electronic shopping and mail-order subsector, albeit only about 450 positions compared to the over 300,000 lost overall.

*Self-employed and agricultural workers are not included.

The number of jobs in the oil and gas support services subsector (e.g. drilling rigs) was down by almost 10,000 in April 2020 compared to February 2020

The number of jobs in the oil and gas support services subsector (e.g. drilling rigs) was down by almost 10,000 in April 2020 compared to February 2020


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