April 9, 2020

Business Council of Alberta estimates Alberta true unemployment rate over 25%

ALBERTA – We know that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the financial and economic well-being of Canadians and businesses. Today’s labour numbers show just how bad the initial impact has been. Over 117,000 Albertans are out of work; in Canada, that number rises to over 1 million. Officially, the unemployment rate in Alberta rose from 7.2% to 8.7%, with the steepest employment declines coming from the accommodation and food services, wholesale and retail trade, information, culture and reaction and health care and social assistance.

“A reported unemployment rate of 8.7% seriously underestimates the reality in Alberta because the labour force survey took place just as the economy was shutting down. Based on all the data we’ve seen this week, our estimates indicate the true unemployment rate in Alberta today is likely three times that – a staggering 27%,” says Mike Holden, Chief Economist at the Business Council of Alberta.

Since March 15, an estimated 4.26 million Canadians have applied for temporary income support through Employment Insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. That is almost four times the number of job losses reported in March. Under the modest assumption that Alberta accounts for a proportionate share of those applications, we estimate that over 490,000 Albertans are out of work.

Hidden behind the headline numbers in today’s jobs data, the actual situation is even worse. Nearly 87,000 Albertans gave up looking for work. Of those who said they still had a job, more than 325,000 reported working zero hours. And based on the number of Canadians seeking income support, we can estimate that April’s job numbers will paint an even grimmer picture.

“Earlier this very week the premier said Alberta could be headed for 25% unemployment. Based on what we’re seeing and the pace this is developing, we think we’re already there,” says Holden.

Given this picture, the Business Council’s calls for widespread supports for both Canadians and businesses at significant speed and scale are even more essential.


About the Business Council of Alberta. The Business Council of Alberta is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to building a better Alberta within a more dynamic Canada. Composed of the chief executives and leading entrepreneurs of the province’s largest enterprises, Council members are proud to represent the majority of Alberta’s private sector investment, job creation, exports and research and development.

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