EDMONTON - As the latest employment figures were released Friday, government critics suggest Finance Minister Iris Evans was looking through "rose-coloured glasses" last year when she predicted just 15,000 Albertans would lose their jobs in 2009.
Instead, the economic downswing appears to have caused a net 28,600 job losses between December 2008 to December 2009.
"What all of these numbers tell is that Albertans are still hurting as a result of the recession," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said in an issued statement Friday.
"What they also tell us is that Finance Minister Iris Evans was clearly looking through rose-coloured glasses 11 months ago. ...
"The real job impacts of the recession have been much worse than the government predicted."
Alberta Employment and Immigration spokesman Terry Jorden could not speak to the finance department's estimates Friday morning.
Last February, Employment Minister Hector Goudreau said the prediction of 15,000 would have been based on an estimated 50 jobs lost a day.
"Throughout 2009, for the first two-thirds of the year, we had a steady increase in unemployment month to month," Jorden said Friday.
"About four months ago, we seem to have turned the corner."
In fact, Alberta's unemployment rate fell by seven percentage points in December; in the capital region, the unemployment rate fell three percentage points in the same period.
Goudreau's department is using unadjusted job loss figures throughout 2009 to come to a total 25,200 jobs lost last year, compared to 53,900 jobs gained in 2008.
Jorden said it has been a challenging year for employees and employers, but the province may now be seeing the beginning of a "slow and steady" recovery.
Last year, members of Premier Ed Stelmach's government talked publicly about needing the federal government to change its formula for distributing unemployment benefits. Workers in Alberta typically need to collect more hours on the job to be eligible for benefits than their colleagues across the country.
"That's still on the table, and we'd still like to see that more equitable," Jorden said, but the provincial government's focus remains on creating jobs rather than the "safety net of unemployment insurance."
Edmonton Journal/Capital Notebook, Fri Jan 8 2010
Posted: Trish Audette