The unemployment rate in Alberta fell to 4.9 percent last month, the lowest since 2015. It is also the first time since 2015 that Alberta has the same unemployment rate as the rest of the country.
Central Alberta Chief Economist Charles St. Arnaud said this is a sign the province is getting back on track after the pandemic.
“The performance of that labor market has been very powerful,” St. Arnaud said.
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St. Arnaud said one factor driving unemployment down is that older workers appear to be leaving the labor market, with Alberta seeing a marginal gain in employment in June.
The unemployment rate is highest in Red Deer at 5.7 percent, Lethbridge-Medicine Hat at 5.2 percent. Calgary and Wood Buffalo-Cold Lake are at 5.0 percent. Edmonton is on par with Alberta at 4 percent, and Camrose-Drumheller are the lowest at 4.2 percent.
“It talks about how robust the recovery has been in the province, it also talks about how supportive the economy is with oil prices hitting $110 a barrel, so that’s very positive,” St. Arnaud said.
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In a statement, Labor Minister Doug Schweitzer said 200,000 more jobs have been added in Alberta since January 2021. He also noted that inflation rates remain a concern.
“Alberta is seeing growth and new jobs in communities large and small in Alberta. The Alberta Recovery Plan is working.”
The NDP’s innovation and economic development critic, Deron Bilous, worries that the numbers aren’t as good as they seem. He points to the 7,100 Albertans leaving the workforce.
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“The question is what are those 7,000 people doing and how many of them are leaving Alberta in total,” Bilous said.
St. Arnaud said rising interest rates will likely have an effect by the end of the year.
“So the chain reaction will lead to weaker consumption, which will lead to weaker demand, weaker business activity, and less need for those companies to hire workers,” St. Arnaud said.
“By the end of the year, you have to ask yourself how much higher interest rates will slow the economy and how much it could negatively affect the labor market.”
St. Arnaud said Alberta could do well as it has a positive tailwind from high oil prices.
“At least here in Alberta we are a little isolated or less affected because we have a very positive momentum in the economy.”
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