Alberta lags nation in job creation, figures show

Alberta gained more full-time jobs in August, but its unemployment rate nudged up 0.2 percentage points in August to 6.5 per cent, seasonally adjusted figures from Statistics Canada showed Friday.

Full-time employment increased by 10,900 in the province, but part-time jobs fell by 15,600 from July for a net loss of 4,700 -- Alberta's first since March.

The labour force, or those available for work, rose by 1,300 people over July.

Most of August's lost jobs came in manufacturing, health care and social assistance and finance, real estate and leasing.

Compared with the same time last year, when the unemployment rate was 7.3 per cent, Alberta has gained 29,000 jobs and the labour force has grown by 13,500 people.

The Alberta Federation of Labour seized on unemployment rates falling in British Columbia and Saskatchewan while staying flat in Manitoba.

"It is clear the government's hands-off approach is not working," federation president Gil McGowan said.

Counting discouraged workers and involuntary part-timers, Alberta's real unemployment rate is 9.2 per cent, the federation said.

"Employment growth in Alberta has continued to lag behind that of the country as a whole in 2010," ATB Financial economist Dan Sumner said.

"Since the beginning of the year, total employment in Alberta is up by only 8,600. This compares with a much more impressive gain of 334,900 jobs nationally."

But a survey released this week suggests that Alberta's job creation could soon pick up, he said. The results from staffing firm Manpower showed employers here and in Calgary and Red Deer are near the top for expected hiring intentions in the fourth quarter, after spending much of the year in the bottom half.

In Edmonton, 20 per cent of employers surveyed plan to hire for the upcoming quarter. None anticipate staffing cuts.

The local jobless rate held steady at seven per cent, compared with 6.9 per cent in July. Calgary's rate in August was 6.7 per cent.

Nationally, a better-than-expected 35,800 jobs were created in August after a decline the previous month that economists have attributed to a decline of 65,000 education jobs just as the school year ended. Most economists had expected about 30,000 new jobs in August.

However, the unemployment rate edged up 0.1 points to 8.1 per cent as more people entered the labour force, the federal agency said.

Full-time jobs were up 79,900, with Quebec, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador making the biggest gains, the agency said. Part-time employment fell by 44,100.

There were job gains in professional, scientific and technical services, and natural resources.

Losses came in manufacturing; business, building and other support services; and information, culture and recreation, Statistics Canada said.

Although 396,300 jobs have been created since August 2009, the agency said, gains in July and August averaged 13,000 -- a big drop from average monthly increases of 51,000 during the first six months of this year.

Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, said the "underlying story" in the latest numbers "is on the soft side of expectations and consistent with a broader loss of momentum in the Canadian economy."

Canada's economic recovery has been slowing after an initially strong rebound from the recession. Gross domestic product expanded by an annualized two per cent in the second quarter of this year; the Bank of Canada had forecast a three-per-cent increase.

Edmonton Journal, Sat September 11, 2010
By Bill Mah

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