May 8, 2020

BCA estimates that Alberta’s true unemployment rate jumped to nearly 29% in April

ALBERTA – COVID-19 continues to have a devasting impact on Canada’s labour force. As Canada shut down to fight the virus, millions of Canadians lost their jobs or were forced to stay home. All told, two million jobs were lost in April, adding to the one million that were lost in March. 

“Since the pandemic began, Canada has wiped out 15 years’ worth of job growth, pushing the official unemployment rate to 13%, but that isn’t even the full extent of it,” says Mike Holden, Chief Economist at the Business Council of Alberta. “Missed by these headline numbers are the one in five employed Canadians who technically had a job but worked zero hours, and the 1.7 million Canadians who simply gave up looking for work.” 

The situation is just as grim in Alberta. Approximately 243,000 Albertans lost their jobs in April— bringing total losses to 360,000 since the crisis began. The number also grossly understates the true extent of job loss in Alberta, as 17% those who reported they were “employed” did not work any hours. 

“Alberta’s official unemployment rate in April was 13.4%, but when you include those who gave up looking for work and the increase in people working zero hours, the true unemployment rate jumps to nearly 29%,” says Holden. “And even that still does not include all those people who are working reduced hours.” 

So, what does this mean for Albertans? A lot of people are currently without work, but this is different from any other recession – in this case, the goal was for people to stay home to protect Albertans and the health care system.  

What matters most is that Albertans can quickly and safely get back to their work post-shutdown. Because each of these “numbers” represents an individual, or a family, whose life has been completely upended.  

Jobs numbers coming out over the next couple of months will give us an indication of if Alberta is able to quickly bounce back as businesses reopen and post-crisis life resumes. We hope the staged re-launch of Alberta will allow for exactly that. 

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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