Employment statistics for March are brutal. But next month will be worse, especially for Alberta.

The oil price collapse and Kenney’s public service cuts will add to the pain caused by COVID-19

EDMONTON - Statistics Canada released its monthly snapshot on trends in employment today. The report shows that things are bad in Alberta. But not any worse than other parts of Canada. At least not yet.

For our province, the worst is yet to come. And our provincial government’s determination to pursue austerity in the middle of an unprecedented recession will make a bad situation much worse.

Quote from AFL president Gil McGowan:

“This is the worst one-month jobs report in Canadian history. It’s particularly bad for young people, women and lower-paid and more vulnerable workers. The impact on both individuals and households is immense. But, sadly, here in Alberta this is just the beginning. This report doesn’t reflect the pain that is coming our way as a result of the collapse in the price of oil. It also doesn’t reflect all the jobs that will be lost next month, and in subsequent months, as a result of the Kenney government’s decision to proceed with cuts and austerity even during an unprecedented crisis. While other governments around the country, and indeed around the world, are focused on helping their citizens during these times of adversity, our government seems determined to make a bad situation much worse. Albertans need to push back and let the government know that now is not the time for deep cuts.”

Highlights from the Statistics Canada report:

  • Employment in Canada fell by 1 million in March, compared to February.
  • Of those Canadians still employed, 1.3 million didn’t work any hours during the reference period (March 15-28) and 800,000 worked less than half of their usual hours.
  • Taken together, that means that 3.1 million Canadians either lost their jobs or lost significant hours of work as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Here in Alberta, more and 100,000 people lost their jobs – which is close to the average experienced in other provinces, after adjusting for population.
  • Alberta experienced slightly fewer lost hours (14 per cent of total hours worked) than the Canadian average (15 per cent of total hours worked).
  • However, the Alberta numbers were taken before the provincial government announced lay-offs for 25,000 K-12 education workers. The figures also don’t include the thousands of university, college and municipal workers who were given pink-slips in March as a result of the provincial government’s austerity budget, but who won’t actually lose their jobs until April.
  • Perhaps surprisingly – and despite the unprecedented collapse in the price of oil that hit Alberta at the same time as the COVID-19 pandemic – the number of people working in the natural resources sector actually went up slightly (1.8 per cent). Experts agree this is not likely to last.
  • Nationally, the unemployment rate increased by 2.2 points to 7.8 per cent. This is the largest one-month increase in unemployment on record.
  • The percentage of Canadians participating in the labour market (the employment rate) dropped to 58.5 per cent, the lowest since 1997.
  • The economic impact of the COVID-19 has been felt more by women than men. Nationally, more than double the number of women of “prime working age” (25-54) lost jobs than men in the same age category (298,500 jobs lost for women vs 127,600 jobs lost for men).
  • Young workers were hit hardest of all. Among Canadians aged 15-24, employment decreased by 392,500. The employment rate for youth now sits at 49.1 per cent, the lowest level on record.
  • Unemployment is worse in some sectors than others. The accommodation and food service sector was hit hardest of all: 24 per cent of people in this sector have lost their jobs outright, and a very high proportion of the remaining workers have lost hours.
  • Overall, the largest employment losses have been experienced among vulnerable workers: youth, part-timers, temporary and low-paid workers. Half of the decline in employment among all Canadians was among those earning less than two thirds of the median wage.
  • These developments have big implications for households. In this one-month reporting period, the number of households with dual incomes has dropped by 918,000. Most of these household relied on that second income to stay afloat financially.

You can read the full report from Statistics Canada here.


Gil McGowan
President, AFL
[email protected]