Employment picture worsens in Edmonton, brightens in Calgary


The unemployment rate in Edmonton climbed to 7.7 per cent in November while Calgary saw some slight improvement in getting people back to work, according to federal labour force numbers released on Friday.

November saw the Canadian economy post its biggest monthly job loss since the financial crisis, with the grimmest employment statistics coming from Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta. 

Nationally, the economy lost 71,200 jobs last month, with the unemployment rate rising to 5.9 per cent from 5.5 per cent in October.

Edmonton's unemployment rate climbed by 0.6 percentage points to 7.7 per cent. This puts the city's unemployment rate above the provincial average of 7.2 per cent, which is up 0.5 percentage points from October.

In contrast, Calgary's unemployment rate dropped, slightly, to 6.9 per cent.

"We have seen a negative trend in Edmonton … over the past year, or little bit more than a year, while Calgary has been improving," said Trevor Tombe, an economist with the University of Calgary.

Tombe said the job losses across Alberta continue to weigh most heavily on male workers, particularly young men.

"We're seeing a further deterioration of the labour market for those individuals," he said. "And that's proving to be the toughest portion of the labour market that has yet to see any recovery at all."

Among men under the age of 25, the unemployment rate was 19.4 per cent in November. That compares to a rate of 10.8 per cent among women of the same age.

In total, were 18,000 fewer jobs in Alberta in November, with the losses occurring in a number of industries, led by wholesale and retail trade.

At a media availability in Edmonton, Premier Jason Kenney said he is always "disturbed to hear about any job losses" in the province but wasn't "entirely surprised" by Friday's numbers.

"It's not a problem isolated to Alberta; it appears to be a national trend," Kenney said. "I hope that Prime Minister Trudeau and his government will take this as an urgent reminder of the need to focus on economic growth and job creation and competitiveness.

"We took over an economy in Alberta here that I think was basically in recession, and that had gone through a four-year job crisis. And I always knew we were not going to be able to turn that around overnight."

Kenney said with energy producers such as CNRL, Suncor and Capital Power announcing projects this week that will create jobs, and with oil expected to be flowing more freely to market within the next year, the employment figures should show some improvement.

"All of the banks and economic think-tanks project that Alberta will lead the country in economic growth next year," he said.

"I know that doesn't give much immediate help to people who are currently jobless, but hopefully it's a sign that things are turning around in Alberta."

Deron Bilous, the NDP Opposition critic for economic development, noted that Fridays' job numbers showed 182,000 Albertans were out of work in November.

"The last time we saw job numbers this bleak we were dealing with a global collapse in the price of oil," Bilous said, adding the statistics represent "the single largest loss in jobs since 2008."

He said the government's recent budget contained cuts and other austerity measures "while promising it would all be worthwhile, because of the jobs they were supposed to create.

"But consistently we're seeing evidence that their plan is failing."