Record unemployment in Alberta

By the Canadian Press

Recent released labour statistics give a reading of Alberta’s current economic troubles.

Alberta lost more than 243,000 jobs in April, double what the province experienced in March, according to Statistics Canada labour market figures. This is the largest monthly decline ever for Alberta.

The province’s unemployment rate jumped to a record 13.4 per cent.

The actual figure may be even higher.

Of the people who lost their jobs in March and April, 113,500 reported they “did not bother looking for work,” during the month, so they are not included in this figure, according to the province’s April Labour Market Notes. If they were, Alberta’s unemployment rate would be closer to 18 per cent, it reported.

Despite these losses, average weekly earnings increased by 3.6 per cent from last year to $1,182.04, and the average hourly wage increased by 8.8 per cent to $34.38. Lower earners, such as part time or seasonal employees might be feeling the brunt of job losses.

Alberta’s economy is reeling from global oil oversupply, blockages to market access and COVID-19 shutdowns, said Martin Shields, MP for Bow River. While the economic impact of COVID-19 is a recent event, difficulties in the resource sector have been ongoing, he said.

“Saudi Arabia and Russia decided to flood the market, which has driven the oil price to almost negative at times,” said Shields. “But getting pipelines built for both liquefied natural gas and oil has been the long-term block to getting a good price for these products.” 

The result has been “a tremendous amount of people in Alberta who have faced economic hardship,” he said.

Small businesses are facing one of the greatest challenges by the situation, said Leela Sharon Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women and MLA for Chestermere-Strathmore.

“Our area is agriculture, manufacturing, and oil and gas based, but we have all the other ancillary businesses that have been successful because of those industries,” said Aheer. “When you look at the resilience of small business and what they are able to do, we have been able to come through just about anything, but this has been very tough.”

The provincial government lobbied the federal government to help small businesses that may not have had regular work and would be eligible for supports, said Aheer.

“That was a lot of work that we did with the federal government – to talk about the importance of those industries,” she said. “If you are a gig artist, you may not have otherwise been able to apply for the other emergency funding. But now they’ve done an alternate version for people who fall into that category of being a small business that might be only a single person.”

While current financial times may be troubling, Aheer remains optimistic about Alberta’s future because of its residents, she said.

“In Alberta, you’re talking about some of the most savvy, resilient people in the world,” she said. “We’ve always been able to look crisis in the face and come out of it better than we were before.”

By Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Strathmore Times

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