Alberta’s job market may be worse than you think right now

Posted on: September 26th, 2018 by
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It’s a common question economists have fielded often this year: How is employment in Alberta, home to the bulk of the country’s energy sector, holding up so well despite spiralling oil prices?

“Perhaps it isn’t,” Robert Kavcic, an economist at Bank of Montreal said in a new research note on Friday.

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Kavcic looked at data from the payroll survey released by Statscan yesterday (“that other employment report”) and matched the numbers up against the official data in the Labour Force Survey, the report that news media and others typically zero in on for monthly jobs numbers.

The economist found that Alberta has in fact shed 34,000 jobs through July, leaving employment down from year-ago levels. That’s in stark contrast to the Labour Force Survey, which shows Alberta employment climbing 3.1 per cent in July compared to the number of jobs there a year ago, before oil prices cratered. See the chart below.

MORE: Complete coverage – plunging oil prices

Meantime in Ontario, the labour force numbers suggest the country’s most populous province is still posting lacklustre employment gains, while the payroll survey indicates Ontario has cranked out an “impressive” 105,000 jobs year to date (to July, latest numbers available), Kavcic said.

“There are a number of factors that can cause these two surveys to send mixed signals—self-employment (we’ve accounted for that), non-resident workers, multiple job holders, etc.,” the BMO economist said.

“Right now, the less-publicized payroll report is probably painting a truer picture of Canada’s regional employment landscape.”

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