Advocacy

March 5, 2024

Trades, health care, and “middle skills” lead the shift in Alberta’s labour market composition

Report from the Business Council of Alberta uses machine learning to shed new light on Alberta’s current labour market needs amid high in-migration

Amid a surging population, rapid decarbonization, and the rise of AI and other digital technologies, Alberta’s labour market needs look very different today than in 2018—with demand for trades and health care workers surging.

A new report today from the Business Council of Alberta analyzes the major transformations in Alberta’s labour market over the past five years to assess current labour market needs and build a better understanding of the future of work in Alberta.  

“The labour force in Alberta has grown considerably over the past five years, driven in large part by high levels of in-migration—around 400,000 more people live in the province today,” says Mike Holden, Chief Economist of the Business Council of Alberta. “Many newcomers are selected for their economic potential, and having a clear and rich understanding of the labour market’s needs enables us to prioritize economic immigrants with the most highly valued skills and experience. Right now, we’re seeing surging demand for teachers, health care workers, and especially trades. In fact, trades-related jobs account for a higher percentage of postings than anywhere else in Canada (19%).”

Using machine learning and large amounts of data from publicly available job postings, the report examines shifts in the labour market over seven core themes, including occupations of growth, foundational skills, digital skills and technologies, education and experience, labour demand in oil and gas demand, remote work, and demand across regions and industries.

Report Highlights

  • Demand for trades and health care occupations surge while demand for engineering decreases. Since 2018, there has been a massive increase in job postings in Healthcare and Trades occupations, up 16% and 13% respectively each year—far outpacing population growth—while postings for all categories of engineering occupations fell more than 60%. Also surging are postings for teachers and education-related jobs. Assisting Occupations in Education (+337%) saw the fastest growth of any major occupation.
  • The labour market requires more “middle skills.” Job postings that require a college diploma or apprenticeship training have seen the most growth. This trend pre-dates COVID and suggests that demand for these middle skills will continue to lead the labour market. And while this growth is clear across Canada, it is most notable in the Prairies.
  • Alberta’s labour market no longer moves in lockstep with oil and gas. Historically labour demand in Alberta rose and fell tightly with the price of oil. As the industry has gotten leaner and more efficient and other industries have grown, this link has loosened. Demand for energy workers has stabilized and employment remains in line with 2019 levels, while other industries have driven new employment growth.
  • Tech skills are increasingly important to employers. While Alberta accounts for a small share of jobs that require AI or cloud computing skills, the province does account for a large share of jobs that require business intelligence or data analysis skills.
  • Local labour markets matter. Labour markets vary more within provinces than among them. In Alberta, Calgary leads demand for energy and professional services jobs and has seen the largest increase in health care-related job postings. In the Fort McMurray region last year, there was around one open job posting for every two people working in health care, and one for every five working in professional services.

“This report provides evidence to what was initially anecdotal—a rise in trade and health care, distinctions within local markets, a shift in the skills and education required—and gives us a very rich framework with which to plan for the future of work and better support newcomers to our province,” says Holden. “This report is really the first and only of its kind in Alberta, providing this level of information and insight on the labour market.”

The full paper can be found here.

About the Data

Official statistics from Statistics Canada such as the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH) offer important insight into the Alberta labour market but, they tell us little about where labour demand is moving. This report uses publicly available job postings from 2018-2023 to gather data, which is scraped and coded through an independent machine learning algorithm to reveal high-level trends about the labour market as well as business needs.

Prosperity-Driven Immigration for Canada

This is the seventh paper in the Council’s series on Canadian immigration, which has explored Canada’s current approach to immigration, the role of the provinces, barriers newcomers face upon arriving, and Canada’s ability to support and settle high numbers of newcomers. The Council has also struck an expert Task Force to develop actionable policy recommendations to address the opportunities and barriers identified throughout this work. The final paper from the Task Force is expected to be released in spring 2024.

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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. The Council is committed to working with leaders and stakeholders across Alberta and Canada in proposing bold and innovative public policy solutions and initiatives that will make life better for Albertans.

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