indicatorThe Owl

Comparing oil and gas jobs over time

The number of oil and gas jobs in Alberta is 20% higher than 20 years ago

By Rob Roach, ATB Economics 30 March 2022 1 min read

It’s no secret that Alberta’s oil and gas sector is a major component of the provincial economy that generates lots of high-paying jobs.

It’s also no secret that the sector has faced—and will continue to face—three key challenges: volatile prices, limited egress and climate change.

What might be less clear is how employment in the sector has changed over the last two decades.

If we compare where things stood in 2001 with the situation in 2021, we find that the number of payroll jobs in the sector* is actually higher than it used to be. In 2001, the average number of oil and gas jobs in the province was just shy of 71,000 compared to over 85,000 in 2021—an increase of 20%.

The picture changes if we select a base year when the sector was booming. For example, the number of oil and gas jobs in Alberta went from 107,741 in 2008 to 85,361 in 2021 for a drop of 21% (22,380).

The difference is even larger if 2021 is compared to 2014 when average annual employment in the sector peaked at 128,812. The difference works out to 43,451 fewer jobs for a drop of 34%.

Higher oil and gas prices should push employment in the sector higher in 2022, but a return to the levels seen during previous booms is unlikely as leaner operations and the three key challenges noted above keep a lid on the sector’s future growth.

*The job numbers are from Statistics Canada’s Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours. The survey excludes the self-employed as well as owners and partners of unincorporated businesses and professional practice. Oil and gas sector employment includes the North American Industry Classification codes 211 (oil and gas extraction) and 213 (support activities for mining, and oil and gas extraction) and, as such, includes a small number of mining sector jobs.

Answer to the previous trivia question: According to Statistics Canada, the hourly wage of a machinist working in Toronto in 1937 was between 50 and 80 cents. Adjusting for inflation, a machinist earned between $9.66 and $15.45 per hour.

Today’s trivia question: Why do we say “in like a lion, out like a lamb” when referring to the month of March?

Average annual employment in Alberta's oil and gas sector peaked at 128,812 in 2014

Average annual employment in Alberta's oil and gas sector peaked at 128,812 in 2014

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