Year-end employment figures released this morning by Statistics Canada paint a picture of an Alberta labour force that is still hurting even as the provincial economy begins to show signs of emerging from the recession.
"The recovery seems to be coming, but Albertans are still hurting and the provincial labour market is still very fragile," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"The positive news in this report is enough to suggest that the Alberta economy - and along with it, provincial government revenue - will likely return to health sometime this year. But the negative news is enough to suggest that the government should think long and hard before introducing budget cuts that will throw thousands of nurses, teachers and other public sector workers out of work.
Not only are those kinds of cuts unwarranted when you look at the growing evidence of improving economic and revenue conditions, but, coming at a delicate time like this in terms of the labour market, they would only serve to make a bad employment situation worse. And they would almost certainly undermine the progress of the recovery."
The latest statistics show that Alberta had an unemployment rate of 6.7 per cent in December, down from 7.4 per cent in November. But while small month-over-month improvements are always welcome, comparison over the full course of the year - and with October 2008, which represented the top of the boom in Alberta - are much more sobering.
Just how bad have things been in the Alberta labour market since the boom went bust? Consider the following figures:
- Since December 2008, Alberta's population has grown by 71,600 - but the number of people with jobs has dropped by 28,600. The number of Albertans with jobs has fallen even more dramatically when you use October 2008 as your point of comparison (-44,700).
- The number of Albertans with full-time jobs has fallen even more precipitously. There are 52,400 fewer Albertans with full-time jobs today than there were in December 2008 - and 78,100 fewer than there were in October 2008.
- Young Albertans have been particularly hard hit by the recession. Employment for Albertans between the ages of 15 and 24 is down 22,400 since December 2008 and 34,800 since October 2008.
- Male, core-age workers (aged 25 and over) have also experienced a disproportionate share of job losses. 17,500 fewer men in this category are employed in Alberta today compared to December 2008 - and 23,600 fewer compared to October 2008.
- The hardest hit sectors include forestry, mining and oil and gas (down 29,000 jobs compared to December 2008); manufacturing (down 38,600 jobs since October 2008); professional, scientific and technical services (down 24,800 jobs since October 2008); and construction (down 17,100 jobs since October 2008).
- Over the course of the past year, Alberta is second only to B.C. in the number of jobs lost as a proportion of its provincial labour force. On a per capita basis, Alberta has lost more jobs than Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and PEI.
"What all of these numbers tell is that Albertans are still hurting as a result of the recession," says McGowan. "What they also tell us is that Finance Minister Iris Evans was clearly looking through rose-coloured glasses 11 months ago when she predicted that Albertans would lose only about 15,000 jobs in 2009.
"The real job impacts of the recession have been much worse than the government predicted. But the good news is that things seem to be improving slowly. The last thing we need now is for the provincial government to smother the recovery with massive job and spending cuts before it even has a chance to take hold," McGowan concluded.
For more information call:
Gil McGowan, AFL president @ (780) 218-9888 (cell)