Alberta added 21,000 jobs in April … maybe

Alberta joined three other provinces in posting big employment gains in April, according to Statistics Canada, but an economist says the figures should be viewed with caution.

“We should think of it like a giant political poll,” said University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe on the labour force survey results. 

“And like any poll, it comes with a margin of error. So the gain of 21,000 that Alberta saw in April should be seen as a gain of 21,000 plus or minus 20,000, 19 times out of 20.”

Tombe says the better way of judging employment in the province is to look at long-term trends, rather than monthly reports. 

“For Alberta, the trends are fairly concerning in recent months, in many cases negative,” he said. 

Doesn’t make up for losses

If the figure of 21,000 new jobs in Alberta is taken at face value, it still doesn’t make up for reductions seen over the past few months, including “significant losses” in December and January. 

“My expectation is that it’s not going to be turning around anytime soon because there are some pretty significant challenges for the province, in particular with pipelines and business sentiment and things like that,” said Tombe. 

“But we might get more clarity on all those issues over the summer as uncertainty around government policy is resolved and the legislature meets again and maybe in June we will hear from the federal government some good news on Trans Mountain.”

The unemployment rate in the province now sits at 6.7 per cent. It was 6.9 per cent in March.

Tombe said there was barely any change at all in employment in the oil and gas sector. 

Some positives

Despite the gloom, there are some positive indicators in the statistics, with youth unemployment across Canada at all-time lows and positive labour gains for women in Alberta. 

The figures for Canada as a whole show the country added 106,500 jobs in April, far exceeding expectations. It’s the biggest boost in a month since 1976.

Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward Island all gained jobs in April, while the rest of the country remained stable. New Brunswick saw some jobs disappear. 

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