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Alberta job market keeps rolling in spite of oil shock

Oil hit six-year lows in January, yet Alberta's job market proved surprisingly buoyant.
Oil hit six-year lows in January, yet Alberta's job market proved surprisingly buoyant. . Larry MacDougal / The Canadian Press

Alberta, gripped in the throes of a collapse in oil prices, continues to churn out new jobs in an optimistic sign perhaps that the downturn will inflict less damage than people fear.

The job market in Alberta, the heartland of Canada’s all-important energy sector, held firm in the face of cratering crude prices last month, according to Statistics Canada job numbers released Friday.

The province did lose 1,000 jobs in the resource sector, where oil and gas workers are counted. But Alberta, which accounted for roughly one in three new jobs created in Canada last year, remained the country’s employment growth leader in the first month of 2015.

More than 13,500 positions were added to payrolls last month and the province’s unemployment rate dropped two ticks to 4.5 per cent.

“All eyes were on Alberta for potential job losses, but the province was actually a strong spot again in January,” Robert Kavcic, an economist at Bank of Montreal, said. “It will take a bit longer for the knock-on effects of lower oil prices to show up in other industries.”

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The pace of job growth in the province continues to run red hot compared to the rest of Canada, experts said.

“That clearly cannot last, but it is impressive just how much underlying momentum Alberta had around the turn of the year heading into the steep oil price drop,” BMO’s chief economist Doug Porter said.

In all, eight of 10 provinces managed to add jobs last month, delivering a better-than-expected jobs report.

The only two to register declines were Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. “The former is the second largest oil producer in the country,” Porter noted.

Here’s a look at the January jobs numbers and updated unemployment rate in each province.

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jamie.sturgeon@globalnews.ca

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