Alberta bears brunt of January job losses as oil rout cuts across economy

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WATCH: Employment in Alberta decreased by 10,000 jobs last month. Sarah Offin has details – Feb 5, 2016

Canada’s unemployment rate hit a two-year high in January as the economy shed another 5,700 jobs amid the ongoing slump in the price of oil and other resources.

The decline was in line with expectations among economists who were calling for a loss of 6,000 jobs last month as economic conditions deteriorated.

Employment in Alberta – home to the bulk of Canada’s energy sector and epicentre of the commodity shock — decreased by 10,000 last month, bringing the jobless rate in the province to 7.4 per cent, or the highest in 20 years.

“[N]ot surprisingly, it’s oil-centred Alberta where the bad news is hitting hardest,” Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC, said.

MORE: Oil slump hits Alberta office workers as EI claims double

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Regional rotation

There were fewer people working in Alberta, Manitoba as well as Newfoundland and Labrador in January, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Ontario and British Columbia were the lone provinces to post employment increases. Ontario added a robust 19,800 positions in January while B.C. cranked out 1,200 new jobs.

The two provinces are expected to lead economic growth this year as their more diversified economies benefit from the dollar’s sharp drop, which should boost industries like manufacturing and tourism.

“The regional divergence is the dominant theme here,” Doug Porter, chief economist at Bank of Montreal, said. “Alberta is now weakening notably after at first holding up surprisingly well in the early stages of the oil price shock. Meanwhile, unemployment in the non-oil producing regions remains quite stable.”

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Still, the national jobless rate ticked a tenth of a percentage point higher, to 7.2 per cent, Statistics Canada said Friday – a two-year high.

“[There’s] likely more to come on that front as the impact of a resource price slump trickles across the broader economy,” Shenfeld said.
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