June 13, 2022

Weekly EconMinute—May 2022 Labour Force Survey

In this week’s EconMinute, we’re talking about May Labour Force Survey numbers.

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After over 2 years of the pandemic, Alberta’s labour market is not only recovered—it is stronger than it was. Nationally, employment was flat from April to May, adding 40k (+0.2%) jobs while Alberta saw a respectable increase of 28k jobs (+1.2%).

Though it may not be the strongest labour market overall in some respects, Alberta leads in terms of the most improved labour market compared with pre-pandemic, with 92k more people working than before the pandemic. The only province to see a bigger improvement is Newfoundland & Labrador.

Across Canada, labour markets have tightened recently as more businesses hire. In many provinces, among those of prime working age, more are working and fewer are out of work than in February 2020. Overall, we have seen a remarkable turnaround vs the depths of the pandemic.

In fact, rates of unemployment are at historical lows, with 6 of 10 provinces below the national average going into the pandemic. In particular, Alberta’s has shown significant improvement over the past few months, decreasing from 8.1% last September to 5.3% as of May.

Even better, improvement over the last few months has been due to more Albertans working full-time, with an impressive increase in full-time jobs in May of 61K (while part-time decreased 33k). In addition to more people working, it could also mean a shift from part-time to full-time as the economy improves.

As well, there were more job opportunities across a wide range of industries. In particular, professional and technical services (e.g. business in consulting, advertising, research, etc.) and transportation and warehousing (e.g. trucking, airlines) saw large improvements.

Growth in professional and technical services is particularly important as these tend to represent full-time, high-paying jobs and, previously, Alberta’s growth was lagging behind other provinces. Meanwhile, manufacturing (-12%) & hospitality (-90%) represent major industries that haven’t recovered.

Also good news: improvement in Alberta seems to be widely shared. All major demographics have seen more job opportunities over the last couple of months. At this point, older men seem to be the only group lagging behind—either due to early retirement or a mismatch of skills with work opportunities available.

Most importantly is the fact that many of the individuals back at work were those who had been out of work a long time. The percentage of Albertans out of work over a year has dropped precipitously: a decrease of over 50%. Though still higher than other provinces, this is a very good sign.

As a result, a growing portion of those who are unemployed have only been out of work for a few months, representing more normal unemployment found in a healthy, growing economy as individuals enter the labour force, or move from one job opportunity to the next.

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