Close to half of all the jobs created in Canada were in Alberta and the province also maintained the lowest unemployment rate, according to numbers released Friday.
Through 2011, about 98,800 positions were created in Alberta — about 50% of jobs gained nationwide at 199,200, accounting for a 1.2% employment rate increase nationally.
StatsCan reported Alberta's jobless rate in December dipped to 4.9% from 5% the previous month.
While job creation appears to be on the upswing and the number of unemployed is going down in Alberta, the same isn't true nationally with jobless rate average pegged at 7.5% last month, which spiked a tad from 7.4% in November. Labour critics are cautioning Alberta against complacency in spite of the latest numbers.
Gil McGowan, president of Alberta Federation of Labour, said the figures are optimistic for Alberta but the province must make sure growth continues. McGowan said the job growth is attributable to increased investment in the oilsands, but warns the "rosy" path could end if the trend of sending raw bitumen outside the country continues.
"Our concern is that the story may change down the road if our (Canadian) government continues to focus on extraction-only oilsands projects as opposed to value-added projects dealing with refining and upgrading," said McGowan.
"If we're not building upgraders and refineries, then we won't be creating long-term jobs for the future."
He said the trend of shipping bitumen out of the province instead of processing it locally could end the good employment scenario in a few years. "I'm afraid that the rosy employment picture that we're enjoying today simply won't last," he said.
Darrell Winwood, a spokesman with Alberta Human Services, said the job increases in the province are a sign of a strong economy and growth.
Winwood also said the latest figure was the fourth month the unemployment rate has dropped.
While unemployment numbers are going down in the province, the rate in the Calgary area has risen from 5.4% in November to 5.5% in December. In December 2010, the Calgary region had an unemployment rate of 6% while the provincial average was 5.5%.
Calgary Sun, Fri Jan 6 2012
Byline: Renato Gandia