indicatorThe Owl

Unemployment rate hits record high in May

With a large portion of the economy effectively closed, the unemployment rate in Alberta rose to 15.5 per cent in May

By ATB Economics 5 June 2020 1 min read

Now that the Alberta economy has started to reopen, the big question is not how bad did things get when it was closed, but how quickly will it recover.

This is certainly the case when it comes to jobs. We know lots of jobs disappeared while the economy was in lockdown, but what we really want to know is when employment will get back to pre-pandemic levels.

Because today’s results from the Labour Force Survey capture the state of the job market just before the reopening of the Alberta economy began in mid-May, we will have to wait until we get the numbers for June to get a clear sense of how well the provincial recovery is proceeding.

With a large portion of the economy effectively closed, the unemployment rate in Alberta rose to 15.5 per cent in May, surpassing the already record high level of 13.4 per cent that prevailed in April. The national rate in May was 13.7 per cent.

The rise in the unemployment rate was not the result of additional job losses but rather the return of about 89,000 Albertans to the labour force after dropping out in March and April on the assumption that looking for work was pointless during the lockdown or because they needed to isolate themselves.

The labour force was, however, still down by 148,000 in May compared to February (-5.9 per cent) so there were still a lot of “discouraged workers” yet to return to the job market.

The number of jobs in the province actually increased in May compared to April by 28,000, but the gain was entirely in the form of part-time work with 27,000 full-time jobs lost and 55,000 part-time positions added.

Alberta's unemployment rate hit 15.5% in May

The unemployment rate in May is the highest on record since the current data series began in 1976


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