indicatorThe Owl

A brief primer on job numbers, part two

Alberta has had the highest annual employment rate among the provinces since at least 2001.

By ATB Economics 31 March 2020 2 min read

With a lot of bleak job statistics about to start appearing over the next few months in the wake of the efforts to contain COVID-19, The Owl is taking a look at some of the key concepts behind the numbers. In yesterday’s edition, we discussed the Labour Force Survey and the unemployment rate. Today, we are zooming in on how employment is measured.

The Labour Force Survey uses a sample of Canadians to estimate the number of people with a job in any given month. It includes full-time and part-time workers as well as those who are self-employed, but only counts the main job* held by respondents. Second jobs and side gigs are not included. As a result, it’s a bit of a misnomer when we refer to the number of jobs going up or down as it’s technically the number of employed people that is changing.

For the purposes of the Labour Force Survey, a person is considered to be a full-time employee if they usually work 30 hours or more per week at their main or only job. Part-time employees are those who usually work less than 30 hours per week at their main or only job.

It’s not quoted very often, but the “employment rate” is the number of people with a job expressed as a percentage of the population 15 years of age and over. 

Because Alberta has the youngest population among the provinces and, even during recessions, an economy that generates a relatively large number of jobs, we’ve had the highest annual employment rate among the provinces since at least 2001. 

This also means that Alberta is home to a relatively large number of people who are looking for work as opposed to retired or discouraged, which explains how our unemployment rate can be above the national average even though we have the highest employment rate in the country.

*When a respondent holds more than one job or business, the job or business involving the greatest number of usual hours worked is considered to be the main job (Guide to the Labour Force Survey).

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A note on COVID-19: The COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on the economy here in Alberta and around the world. The Owl will report on these impacts when good information is available while continuing to track regularly scheduled releases of economic data and long-term trends.

For additional information on COVID-19 and advice for the public, please visit Alberta Health Services. Please go to atb.com for COVID-19-related updates from ATB Financial.

Alberta has had the highest annual employment rate among the provinces since at least 2001.

Alberta has had the highest annual employment rate among the provinces since at least 2001.


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