indicatorThe Twenty-Four

Self-employment in Alberta during COVID

The number of self-employed Albertans increased last year by 0.6 per cent

By ATB Economics 14 January 2021 1 min read

Unlike the number of employees in the province—which fell by 8.6 per cent last year—the number of self-employed* Albertans increased—albeit modestly—by 0.6 per cent.

There were, on average, 364,700 self-employed Albertans last year. This represents 16.8 per cent of all jobs in the province.

While some of the increase in self-employment was likely due to Albertans giving it a try because they lost their job as an employee or could not find an employee position, we cannot say for sure because the Labour Force Survey does not ask why someone is self-employed.

Past downturns don’t provide much guidance on this because self-employment sometimes goes down during a recession (as it did in 2015 and 2016) and sometimes goes up (as it did in 2009, in 1982 and 1983, and last year).

The data do tell us, however, that self-employment in Alberta last year grew by 2.4 per cent among those with no paid staff, but shrank by 3.8 per cent among working owners with paid staff.

The industries that saw the biggest declines in self-employment were oil and gas (-24.6 per cent), business, building and other support services (-14.2 per cent), and accommodation and food services (-11.8 per cent).

The industries that recorded the largest increases were manufacturing (31.9 per cent), information, culture and recreation (21.1 per cent), and health care and social assistance (21.1 per cent).

Nationally, self-employment declined by 3.4 per cent in 2020 compared to a drop of 5.6 per cent for employee positions. Self-employment increased in all four Atlantic provinces and Alberta, but lost ground in each of the other provinces.

*For someone to be considered self-employed by Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey, their self-employed position must be the job at which they usually work the most hours. As such, self-employment in addition to a main job as an employee is not included.

Answer to the previous trivia question: At 250.9 metres and 66 floors, the tallest building in Alberta is the Stantec Tower in Edmonton.

Today’s trivia question:  Which province had the largest proportion of its total employment in the self-employment category last year?

There were, on average, 364,700 self-employed Albertans last year

There were, on average, 364,700 self-employed Albertans last year

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