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Alberta's job market modestly improves in August after a dismal July

Alberta's job market modestly improves in August after a dismal July

After an ugly July, Canada's labour market is starting to show signs of improvement with an estimated 26,200 jobs created during the month of August. The increase was almost twice as much as expected. The August gains almost completely reverse the 31,200 jobs lost during the month of July. Despite the job gains, the national unemployment rate rose from 6.9% to 7.0% as more people re-entered the workforce.

Much of the gains were full-time jobs, rising by 52,200 in August. The increase helps offset the loss of 71,400 full-time jobs in July. However, the number of full-time positions across the country has declined almost 36,000 over the past 12 months while part-time positions have climbed by 113,000. Ontario is leading the country in the creation of part-time jobs.

Alberta isn't getting worse

Alberta gained 21,500 new full time jobs and lost 18,700 part-time jobs in August. However, over the past 12 months, full-time employment in the province is down almost 91,000 while 37,500 new part-time jobs were created. Much of the new jobs created in August came from the oil & gas sector, an indication that layoffs in the energy patch might be coming to an end.

Alberta's unemployment rate fell from 8.6% in July to 8.4% in August due in part to a decline in the labour participation rate.

Unemployment Rates (%)

Source: CANSIM table 282-0087

Despite a recent recovery in oil prices, employment in the province took a huge step back after the Fort McMurray wildfires in May. On a 3-month average, Calgary's unemployment rate hit a high of 9.0% in August, up substantially from 8.1% in May. Edmonton's labour market also deteriorated through the summer, rising from 7.0% in May to 8.0% in August.

Statistics Canada did not collect labour data for the Wood Buffalo area (including Fort McMurray) from May to July due to the wildfires and evacuations. Data collection resumed in August and those numbers are reflected in the national and Alberta estimates. A 3-month average for the Wood Buffalo region will be available in October. 

Where the jobs are

The public sector gained 57,000 jobs across the country in August, while the number of people employed in the private sector and self-employed declined by 8,300 and 39,100, respectively. However, over the past year, nearly all of the job gains have been in the private sector.

Employment in the technical and professional services sector continues to be weak, losing another 23,100 in August. Much of those losses are concentrated in Calgary's corporate office and engineering firms.

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