After a mid-summer improvement, Alberta's jobless rate increased during August. At 6.5 per cent - up from 6.3 per cent in July - it remains lower than the nation's 8.1 per cent average.
But while nearly 11,000 people found full-time work in Alberta, employment officials reported Friday, 15,600 part-time jobs were lost. With students heading back to high schools and post-secondary institutions across the province, a shortage of part-time work opportunities this fall could worsen student finances for young people who weren't able to earn much over the summer. Elsewhere across Western Canada, however, the employment picture continued to brighten.
Saskatchewan remained the leader, improving to 4.8 per cent in August.
And Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, urged Alberta's government to do more to stimulate this province's economy.
"Alberta's economy is nowhere near as robust as the rest of the western provinces," he said Friday. "It is clear the government's hands-off approach is not working."
In its monthly report, Statistics Canada pegged Manitoba's jobless rate at 5.6 per cent, unchanged from a month earlier, while British Columbia remained highest at 7.3 per cent.
By contrast, StatsCan put southern Alberta's rate at 6.5 per cent while Calgary's was higher at seven per cent. A month earlier, the Lethbridge-Medicine Hat area's rate was reported at 6.9 per cent - the same as August 2009.
Greater swings were recorded elsewhere in Alberta, including a spike in the Fort McMurray region (from 4.9 per cent in July to 5.8 per cent a month later) and a drop in Red Deer region (down to 4.8 per cent from 5.6 per cent in July).
Nationally, StatsCan said the economy created 35,800 net new jobs during August, but that gain was overshadowed by the fact even more Canadians were actively looking for work.
With an estimated 1.5 million job-ready Canadians out of work, there were more calls for for Ottawa to extend the program that expanded Employment Insurance benefits by five weeks. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has called the rollback a "mistake," and the federal Liberals have also asked the Harper government to consider new stimulus.
The Canadian Labour Congress said Friday that once "discouraged workers" are factored in, the underlying unemployment rate is 11.6 per cent.
"The federal government is walking away from workers and their families at a time when unemployment remains high and the economic recovery is fragile," CLC president Ken Georgetti said.
In Alberta, McGowan said, the "real unemployment rate" is 9.2 per cent - up from 8.6 per cent in June. That figure reflects the number of people who need full-time work but can only find part-time hours, as well as those who repeatedly apply for jobs without success.
McGowan said Canada's "official" rate is based on "a much narrower calculation," covering people who are receiving employment insurance or who are engaged in job-search programs.
"What economists often refer to as the ‘real' unemployment rate captures those who have dropped out of the labour force entirely, those who are working part-time due to unavailability of hours or full-time options, and those waiting to go back to a job after a layoff," he said.
While the province's private sector has been slow to create full-time jobs, McGowan added, the provincial government has frozen hiring and laid off at least 300 public employees recently.
At Alberta Employment and Immigration, officials pegged the total workforce at 2,003,900 men and women, down from 2,008,600 in July. Losses were reported in the manufacturing, information, culture, recreation and public administration sectors.
But provincial officials noted job gains in oil and gas, mining, construction and trade sectors.
Lethbridge Herald, Fri Sept 10 2010
Byline: Dave Mabell