Alberta jobs continue slide as Canada adds positions

Alberta's unemployment rate soared from 7.2 per cent to 7.8 per cent in May, but national rate fell

OTTAWA – While fighting a huge wildfire, Alberta’s labour market woes continued last month as job losses mounted, the unemployment rate surged and total hours worked hit their lowest mark in 30 years.

Statistics Canada released its first batch of labour data to coincide with the massive blaze that forced production shutdowns in Alberta’s economically critical oilsands region and triggered the evacuation of Fort McMurray.

The report Friday found that Alberta’s unemployment rate soared from 7.2 per cent to 7.8 per cent in May following the loss of 24,100 jobs across several industries. The biggest drops were seen in the resources and construction sectors.

Statistics Canada also says the total number of hours worked in Alberta decreased 5.1 per cent – the largest monthly decline since May 1986. In the 12 months leading up to May, employment in Alberta fell by 53,800 jobs or 2.3 per cent.

The story was different nationwide as the headline job numbers beat expectations.

Across Canada, the labour force survey showed an overall gain of 13,800 jobs in May. The increase helped push the jobless rate down to 6.9 per cent from 7.1 per cent – its lowest level since last July.

However, a closer look at the data shows the number of more-desirable private-sector positions fell by 5,200, while the labour force added 30,200 public-sector jobs.

Full-time work climbed by 60,500 jobs, while part-time positions slid by 46,800.

The number of employee positions in Canada increased in May by 24,800, while self-employed jobs decreased by 11,100.

The category of youth employment, representing workers aged 15 to 24, shed 35,400 jobs last month. Over the previous 12 months, losses in this category reached 82,400 – a 3.3 per cent decline.

Overall, however, Canadian employment last month was up 0.6 per cent compared to 12 months earlier, the report said.

The labour data surpassed expectations of a consensus of economists, who had predicted the country to add 3,800 jobs and for the unemployment rate to stay at 7.1 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

Statistics Canada said it collected labour survey data last month for the sub-provincial area that includes Fort McMurray, but due to the Alberta wildfire, it did not gather data for the smaller census agglomeration that encompasses the city.