OTTAWA — The country’s latest job numbers have given Albertans yet another reminder of the relentless pressure the downturn in oil is having on that province’s economy.
With a huge wildfire still roaring through oil country near Fort McMurray, Statistics Canada released a new employment report Friday that found Alberta lost more jobs last month than any province — by far.
The labour force survey said Alberta lost 20,800 positions in April, including a drop of 11,300 in the goods-producing industries and 9,500 in services sectors.
The Canadian labour market as a whole was essentially stuck in neutral last month with the national jobless rate unchanged at 7.1 per cent. Overall employment saw a small net loss of 2,100 positions.
Many analysts viewed the steady nationwide result as largely positive following the country’s solid net gain of 40,600 jobs in March.
Alberta, however, stood out in last month’s numbers for the wrong reasons.
The crude-producing province has been hit hard by stubbornly low oil prices, which began to plummet nearly two years ago.
Last month’s job losses came in a range of sectors, suggesting the negative effects of oil-price shock have spread outside the natural resources industry.
The province is now contending with a monstrous wildfire that has forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray and the shutdown of the nearby, economically critical oilsands facilities. Those closures have turned off the faucets on up to million or more barrels of oil a day, according to some estimates.
Experts say it’s still too early to know the extent of the fallout from Alberta’s latest economic hardship, but some warn that prolonged shutdowns will likely be severe enough to curb Canada’s overall economic growth.
“Certainly, you know that saying: when it rains it pours,” TD economist Brian DePratto said Friday in an interview.
“And certainly Alberta has gone through a difficult time and this is just more challenge for that province.”
The April job losses in Alberta mean employment was down 1.6 per cent compared with the year before.
BMO senior economist Robert Kavcic wrote in a note to clients Friday that resource-sector employment in the province, which shed another 8,400 jobs last month, is down 43,000 positions since its 2014 peak.
“Growth in Alberta’s labour force has started to crack, as expected,” he wrote.
Between December and April, the country lost 51,700 manufacturing jobs _ with 23,200 of them in Alberta, including 3,000 last month. Manufacturing work in the Prairie province now is down 17.7 per cent compared with the year before.
Economists have been looking to Canada’s manufacturing industry to pick up the slack from its hobbled resources sector, which has struggled amid low commodity prices.
Year-over-year, manufacturing employment was down 0.9 per cent across Canada.
For the overall Canadian labour market, the report said manufacturing job losses last month contributed to an employment drop in the goods-producing industry, which wiped out a solid gain in the services sector.
Goods-producing work across Canada fell by 37,100 positions, led by a drop of 16,500 manufacturing jobs. The economy added 35,000 services jobs.
“We are obviously very concerned any time there are Canadians who are losing jobs as the numbers this month highlighted,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference Friday in Toronto when asked about the manufacturing job losses.
“But we remain focused on the medium and long term, creating the kinds of conditions for growth that haven’t been apparent over the past 10 years.”
Overall, Canadian employment in April was up 0.8 per cent compared with 12 months earlier, the jobs report said. The number of employee positions in Canada increased last month by 22,800, while less-desirable self-employed jobs fell by 24,900.
British Columbia saw the biggest gain of any province last month by adding 13,000 positions. Year-over-year, employment was up 4.9 per cent.
The flat national job number matched the projection of a consensus of economists who had also predicted the jobless rate to creep up to 7.2 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.