January 21, 2016 11:53 am
Updated: January 23, 2016 11:43 pm

Oil slump hits Alberta office workers as EI claims double

Calgary's skyline.

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The oil slump is now showing firmly through employment data.

The number of workers who’ve lost their positions and are collecting employment insurance benefits has more than doubled in Alberta in the past year – to 61,300, new data from Statistics Canada released Thursday show.

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Rising claims in Alberta were responsible for two-thirds of a 9.2 per cent increase in claims nationally in November, the latest data available. It was the biggest annual jump since February 2010, the federal statistics agency said.

Office workers

The jump in claims in the province – home to the bulk of the country’s ailing energy industry – didn’t come directly from job losses among oil sands workers. Instead, the biggest sources of claims were from office workers and white-collar types.

“The monthly increases for Alberta came mainly from beneficiaries who had last worked in business, finance and administrative occupations, natural and applied sciences [and] management occupations,” Statscan said.

MORE: Fort McMurray mayor says low oil a ‘firestorm’ for community

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Both Edmonton and Calgary saw the number of beneficiaries rise in November, as did most centres in the province, Statscan said.

After showing some impressive resilience through much of 2015, as oil prices slide further toward their current lows, Alberta is labouring under the commodity’s drastic slide and is now clearly showing it.

Some 14,900 jobs were lost in the province in November – the biggest drop in the country. Employment fell by another 3,900 jobs last month. Statscan will report job numbers for January on Feb. 5.

Alberta’s jobless rate is now higher than Ontario’s, the first time that’s happened since the 1990s. In contrast, provinces with more diverse economies are seeing labour job prospects hold tight, and are attracting waves of out-of-work Albertans — or former residents back.

Claims in British Columbia actually declined 1 per cent as cities like Abbotsford, Victoria and Vancouver reported fewer people collecting EI.

MORE: Job seekers are flocking to Ontario and B.C. again for work

WATCH: Reid Fiest takes stock of how low oil prices are impacting one of the industry’s most important centres: Fort McMurray, Alta.

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