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Economic slowdown showing up in job market

created by Arseni Temirov on Fri 13 Mar 2015

Todd Hirsch - Chief Economist

It’s been expected for some time now—the drop in energy prices finally appears to be taking a toll on workers in Alberta.

According to the latest Labour Force Survey released this morning by Statistics Canada, there were 14,000 fewer people working in the province in February than in the previous month. That’s one of the largest drops in employment in several years. The losses were spread evenly between full-time and part-time jobs.

The unemployment rate jumped from 4.5 per cent in January to 5.3 per cent in February, the highest since September 2011.

Job losses were particularly acute in predictable industries. Resource extraction sectors lost 7,000. A category of jobs labelled “professional, scientific and technical services”—which would be largely occupations such as engineers, geologists and other positions involved in oil and gas extraction—shed 6,900. Retail trade jobs also showed a drop of more than 10,000.

Still, there were some sectors that gained ground. Construction employment rose by 7,000 month-over-month and jobs in health care and social assistance advanced by 5,900.

The loss of employment in Alberta is unfortunate, but entirely expected. While many employers appeared to be keeping workers as long as they could, by February, the cost pressures finally forced some layoffs. With oil prices remaining low in March, we can anticipate a few more unpleasant job reports in the short term.