indicatorThe Owl

Lots in common: Workers by sector in Alberta’s two largest cities

While the differences between the two workforces are relatively small, they are noticeable enough to give each city a distinct profile.

By ATB Economics 14 April 2020 2 min read

Yesterday’s Owl looked at some of the challenges associated with comparing short-term shifts in the Calgary and Edmonton labour markets. However, if we step back from the month-to-month numbers, we can get a pretty good idea of how Alberta’s two largest cities* stack up in terms of employment by sector.

Perhaps the first thing to notice is that the composition of the two labour markets is remarkably similar. When we look at how workers are distributed across the 16 main economic sectors tracked by Statistics Canada, the differences are mostly limited to only a few percentage points. For seven sectors, the difference is within a single percentage point. 

For example, despite having the largest university in the province (Athabasca University is larger but specializes in online learning), educational workers represented 7.3 per cent of Edmonton’s workforce last year compared to 6.5 per cent in Calgary—a difference of just 0.8 percentage points.

The largest employer in both cities is the wholesale and retail sector followed by health care and social assistance.

When it comes to what distinguishes the two labour markets, the fact that Edmonton is the provincial capital sets it apart with public administration jobs accounting for 6.7 per cent of Edmonton’s workforce versus 3.9 per cent in Calgary. Although a major employer in both centres, construction looms a bit larger in the capital at 11.4 per cent of Edmonton’s workforce compared to 8.3 per cent in Calgary.

As the headquarters of many of Alberta’s oil and gas companies, Calgary stands out with a larger proportion of workers in the oil and gas sector (6.0 per cent of Calgary’s workers compared to 3.1 per cent of Edmonton’s). Calgary’s workforce is also weighted more toward the professional, scientific and technical services sector at 11.7 per cent of its workforce compared to 4.7 per cent in Edmonton.

While the differences between the two workforces are relatively small, they are noticeable enough to give each city a distinct profile.

*Data for smaller centres is available, but only for Census years. Future editions of The Owl will examine the labour market composition of smaller centres.

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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.

Workers by sector in Calgary and Edmonton

Calgary’s workforce is weighted more toward the professional, scientific and technical services sector.


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